Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fidget spinners: "their alleged benefits remain scientifically unfounded"

Fidget spinners, those spinning toys that have taken the world by storm in recent months, are great little things. My brood have several and, at least for the first few days of getting them, were constantly spinning them on their fingers or any other suitable surface. A welcome - if temporary - distraction from the tablets, phones, games consoles et al that pervade their lives.

Some of the claims however, that have been made about fidget spinners are not so great. Namely that these toys might have some almost magical qualities in 'eliminating anxiety' in relation to various diagnostic labels such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism. The paper by Rachel Schecter and colleagues [1] confirms however that as things currently stand: "their alleged benefits remain scientifically unfounded."

Accepting that the research literature on the use of fidget spinners is, at the moment, pretty much nil, Schecter et al provide a little peer-reviewed clarity on the various claims being made around fidget spinners and conditions like ADHD and autism. They suggest that because  "fidget spinners and other self-regulatory occupational therapy toys have yet to be subjected to rigorous scientific research" any medicinal claims around them should really be reserved until appropriate scientific evidence emerges. Further that such toys may represent "potential choking hazards" so medical professionals (and I assume parents and caregivers also) need to be mindful. Such findings follow other opinions from members of this authorship group on other modern day trends and fads [2].

I don't want to undermine the popularity and usefulness of something like fidget spinners as a toy. I can remember the hacky sack sharing a similarly popular position when I was a kid; albeit not accompanied by any psychobabble explanations of improved this-or-that accompanying such use. I neither want to totally poo-poo the idea that for some at least, fidget spinners *might* offer some relief for something like stress under certain circumstances. But what I will continue to take exception to is the way that loose words about a toy having some medicinal qualities for one or more groups can seemingly fill the marketing airways without rigorous scientific evidence to back them up...

To close, vicars... careful when you go to the pub.

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[1] Schecter RA. et al. Fidget spinners: Purported benefits, adverse effects and accepted alternatives. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2017 Jul 7.

[2] Serino M. et al. Pokémon Go and augmented virtual reality games: a cautionary commentary for parents and pediatricians. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Oct;28(5):673-7.

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