5 things you should know about fidget spinners

5 things you should know about fidget spinners
PHOTO: AFP

They're popping up on your timelines, they've appeared all over the news, and now you're seeing kids (and some adults) fiddling with them.

Just what on earth are these whirring contraptions that look like ceiling fans for ants?

Well, they're called fidget spinners and there's no need to be baffled.

We've conveniently compiled a list of everything you need to know about the latest spinning sensation taking kids by storm.

What are fidget spinners?

Typically designed with three prongs, fidget spinners contain ball bearings which reduces friction and spreads the device's weight evenly, allowing it to rotate freely for a long time.

Held between the thumb and another finger, the user flicks an outer edge which kickstarts the spinning motion, all while balancing the toy on the tip of a finger.

via GIPHY

The momentum is said to provide a pleasing sensory experience, a facile activity likened to squeezing a stress ball or twirling a pen that helps keep minds occupied.

The popularity of these toys stems from their appeal to both sexes, availability in a wide spectrum of eye-catching colours and patterns and an entire arsenal of challenging tricks available on YouTube.

How did the trend start?

Originally marketed as a stress-relieving tool and an antidote for kids with ADHD, these therapeutic tools supposedly help sufferers cope by releasing nervous energy and providing an outlet for anxiety.

Since the fad started gaining traction however, experts have disputed the claim, citing the lack of solid scientific evidence to support the claim.

Additionally, fidget tools are also gaining a bad rep for being big distractors in classrooms and inciting cases of thefts because of how hard it is for kids to get their hands on one.

This has led to their ban in a number of schools worldwide and calls for more research to determine if their use is truly effective.

In Singapore, some teachers have banned the device from their classrooms, citing that its use can cause a disturbance or even be used as a weapon.

Fidget tools are also gaining a bad rep for being big distractors in classrooms and inciting cases of thefts because of how hard it is for kids to get their hands on one.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has stated that schools have discretion to decide if they want to implement a ban but it should not be done at the expense of others' learning.

When did this trend start?

Unlike many other toy crazes, fidget spinners are not made by major toy companies, timed for the holiday season or widely promoted in TV advertisements. This left many scratching their heads over why the toy seemingly became popular overnight.

According to Google Trends, online searches for "fidget spinner" started surging in April this year although they were virtually unheard of before then.

No one knows exactly when the gizmo became 2017's hottest item but we're pretty sure the plethora of spinner-related YouTube videos had something to do with it.

Are they dangerous?

Sad to say, they can be.

The innocuous-looking toy has been the cause of several emergency room visits, and some parents have reported their kids choking on spinner parts, or getting their fingers stuck in the toy.

One boy almost lost his eyesight while performing tricks with the gadget. 

11-year-old Issac almost lost his eyesight while performing a trick Photo: Kidspot 

Recently, a more insidious trend of modifying fidget spinners have emerged in the US, effectively turning them into weapons.

Dubbed the 1,000mph challenge, the videos show people attaching things from matchsticks to razor blades and using compressed air to propel them up to 1,600 km/h.

Needless to say, some end up requiring visits to the hospital after the stunts go horribly wrong.

Where do I buy one?

If you're undeterred and determined to get your hands on this all-conquering kids toy, they're available for $12.99 at Toys R Us in Singapore.

Neighbourhood provision stores have them priced from $8.90 and up, depending on the make and features of a spinner. Light-up spinners are more expensive at $12.90.

Online retailers like Qoo10 and Lazada carry spinners for less than $10.

Will 2017 forever be known as the year of the fidget spinner?

Only time will tell when the fad will pass, but I'll be glad to bid adieu to this one.

ljoey@sph.com.sg

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