NEW SPIN ON ‘HARMFUL’ FIDGET FAD
Consumer bodies in the US and UK have warned that the latest distractions in the playground could be dangerous
IT’S THE hottest toy of the moment, freely available and just about anyone can have it: fidget spinners. Originally designed to relieve nervous energy and stress in children (and adults) by helping them focus and centre, the wildly popular, low-tech fidget spinners are now sold on virtually every corner and stores can’t keep up with demand. Even my local computer repair shop now carries a few lines. My guess is it’s a case of you can’t beat them, join them.
For those not in the market for toys, the basic fidget spinner is a three-pronged whirling device – similar to a Lazy Susan – made of plastic and metal, with a bearing at the centre. They’re available in a range of designs, from the cheap-and-nasty basic toys to hi-tech devices that light up and glow, which can cost hundreds of rand.
As with many toy fads, it’s not likely to last long but parents and teachers are probably eager to see the back of it because children “zone out” while playing with the spinners. It was originally designed ostensibly to help “centre” and focus children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but there’s no proven therapeutic benefit so it boils down to providing mindless entertainment.
They’re all the rage on playgrounds (and some offices) and banned in many schools, with consumer bodies now suggesting that the toys can also be dangerous.
Boston-based World Against Toys Causing Harm (Watch) – which has warned against exploding hoverboards, the dangers of backyard trampolines and jumping castles, the drowning dangers of kiddie pools, and high-powered toy guns – has reported that the spinners can fall apart and pose a choking hazard, after children in Texas were hospitalised for ingesting parts of the toys. One required surgery. In Germany, customs officials destroyed 39 tons of the devices due to safety fears.
Two US mothers reported that their children’s Bluetoothenabled fidget spinners burst into flames while charging and a father, about to leave home, pre-empted a fire after noticing smoke emanating from a charging spinner.
Watch consumer advocate Joan E Siff warned: “Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe simply because it’s popular. Know the facts and what injuries may have been reported before choosing a toy for children. Avoid toys that may present a choking hazard.”
Watch said a girl in Texas choked while playing with a fidget and had to have a part of the toy removed from her oesophagus.
The consumer body has also expressed concern about hoverboards and the dangers of lithium batteries. “(They) remain on store shelves, despite continuing to be linked to tragic consequences, including numerous injuries and deaths from fires. In April, babysitters rescued eight children trapped in a house fire allegedly caused by a hoverboard that was charging. In May, the CPSC requested consumers to immediately stop using LayZ Board self-balancing scooters (hoverboards) due to the risk of fire after two young girls died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“Hoverboards continue to be linked to fires, children are dying – with no sense of urgency on the part of the manufacturers and retailers,” said Watch director James A Swartz.
Added Siff: “It is a tragedy when a child dies but when that death could have been prevented, it’s inexcusable. The ongoing injuries and deaths associated with hoverboards continue to be a wake-up call that products should be tested before they reach consumers and not tested on consumers.”
In the UK, Trading Standards, a local government department, has cautioned against the influx of cheap imported fidget spinners from unscrupulous manufacturers.
The Telegraph reported in June that trading standards officers had seized and impounded 800 fidget spinners which were being imported from China through Heathrow airport. The shipment of poor quality and potentially dangerous versions of the toys – which seem to have flooded the South African market – was intercepted after officers found that warnings about choking hazards were “barely visible”.
Councillor Martin Veal, cabinet member for community services, said: “Our Trading Standards officers have been looking at some of the spinners on sale and found them to have very small and dangerous parts, so for public safety it’s only right that they be withdrawn from sale. Anyone buying a fidget spinner should purchase it from a reputable trader and ensure the safety warnings can be clearly seen on the packaging.”
Christine Heemskerk, lead officer for consumer and product safety at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said there were concerns about children swallowing lithium batteries or being injured by sharp edges: “The people importing them have got no idea of their legal obligations.”
Word to the wise: any toy can be dangerous, which is why fidget spinners, building blocks, toys with small parts and the like should not be given to very young children. With millions of fidget spinners on the market, chances are someone’s going to get hurt. But it doesn’t hurt to exercise caution. And steer clear of the cheap-and-nasty knock-offs.
ALL THE RAGE: Fidget spinners are available in a range of designs, from toys to hi-tech devices.