Psychologist Likens Benefits of Fidget Spinners to Pet Rocks

Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187 (Image via Wikipedia)

We have written about the fidget spinner craze before, but if you’re late to the party, let me catch you up. Fidget spinners are a relatively new fad amongst children ages 6 to 60. They comfortably fit in a child’s hand and usually have three curved “arms” jutting from a central circle. The point is that you can spin the outer “arms” around the center circle. And that is all. Watching them can be a little captivating, and can sometimes make you want to spin one yourself. But the most important aspect of fidget spinners is all the hype they have gotten surrounding their supposed ability to help children (and adults) with ADHD, anxiety, or stress. After so much buildup around the topic, one clinical psychologist decided to set the record straight.


David Anderson, Ph.D., is senior director of the Child Mind Institute in New York City, and is a clinical psychologist specializing in ADHD. He recently shot a video that Tech Insider shared (you can watch it below). When it comes to fidget spinners, Dr. Anderson put it quite bluntly: “They’re a toy, they’re a gag gift. Not so much a treatment.”

In the video, the doctor did have something positive to say:

The great thing about fidget spinners is that they’ve brought the discussion for what works for ADHD or what might work for anxiety or stress relief, to the forefront, which is great for us to have.

But then he likened the ability of fidget spinners to act as a treatment for ADHD or anxiety to a pet rock. He reinforced the fact that these small, handheld devices are nothing but a fad.

He explained:

There’s no psychologically recommended gadget. There are only gadgets that fall in line with psychologically-based principles.

[For a child experiencing stress or ADHD or anxiety] we might create a coping kit for that child when they’re experiencing certain amounts of stress. That might include music to listen to. It might include a stress ball to squeeze. It might include something that reminds them to breathe or to practice a mindfulness strategy. But it’s really on a case-by-case basis. There’s no universal recommendation of a particular toy for stress relief…

Fidget spinners have absolutely no scientific studies behind them showing any sort of effectiveness in treating this. And the major reason for that is that they’re a fad. They’ve only just come about, and scientific studies take time and money.


Dr. Anderson pointed out that children are more likely the ones guilty of touting the positive psychological effects of fidget spinners to their teachers or parents, in an effort to be allowed to play with them ad nauseam. But he feels that parents are not really swayed on that argument.

If your child is obsessed with his or her fidget spinner, don’t worry. Dr. Anderson doesn’t think they’re doing any harm. But don’t buy into the hype, because they’re certainly not treating anyone’s ADHD, stress, or anxiety.


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