Fidget spinners becoming too much of a distraction in classrooms, say teachers

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - Fidget spinners have become quite the craze with kids in recent months. Originally designed to help kids in the classroom, questions are arising as to whether they help or hurt students. It spins, it’s active, it makes motion and, when taken to school, a fidget spinner can be downright distracting.

“As a teacher, I’m starting to be over them a little bit,” said Amy Rich, third grade teacher at Reed Elementary.

Rich said the fidget spinners have caused a fuss and are no longer allowed in her classroom.

“It should be a tool to help, but it’s become a distraction at times in the classroom. They’re focused more on the than their work.”

Dr. Greg Mattingly, a psychiatrist at St. Charles Psychiatric Associates and instructor at Washington University St. Louis, said the fidgets were designed a few years ago for kids with ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism anxiety. The purpose was to help these children focus at school. However, many kids are buying and bringing the devices to school.

“I was mesmerized. These things are hypnotic. It’s hard not to look at them. But I also noticed it helped my kids pay attention instead of moving around the room,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly has mixed feelings on fidgets because of the craze they have created.

“I think for the right kids they can be used to help keep them in place, in their seat, and focused on their teacher and work,” he said. “But they can also be horribly distracting if not used in right ways.”

That’s where the dilemma comes in to play for school administrators. The fidget can be both a tool to help, but also a toy for fun.

“The teachers are wondering if we should get rid of them,” Rich said. “They are allowed at recess, but teachers are wondering if we should stop allowing them to be brought out.”

Fidgets are selling out at many local stores and they are addictive! Kids are even having some issues following the fidget rules at school.

“I actually, by end of a day, have three or four on my desk that I had to collect from kids because they can’t keep them in the right spots,” Rich said.

Those fidgets can also be very distracting for teachers, according to Dr. Mattingly, who recalled a recent conversation with a teacher.

“She said, ‘Doctor, I can’t focus on my work because I’m watching the kid with the fidget spinner.’ There is that push pull,” Mattingly said.