Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad Or Mega Distraction?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them practically everywhere. Thefidget small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/14/527988954/whirring-purring-fidget-spinners-provide-entertainment-not-adhd-help
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/100737096/#scso=uid_WRjMWAAEI3oKY-9KBg83Jg_1:865
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jplafke/2016/12/23/fidget-spinners-are-the-must-have-office-toy-for-2017/amp/
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/the-fidget-spinner-explains-the-world/526521/
http://www.abc15.com/news/national/toy-takeover-whats-behind-the-fidget-spinner-fad

Volunteer Your Child For Success Later In Life


Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union
Volunteering is one of the most selfless acts a person can do. It’s all about experiencing things as someone else experiences them, and making life a little better for the both of you. Some parents would rather their children spend that time studying instead of doing something selfless. Volunteering, to them, is nice in theory, but just not worth it. What if, though, volunteering could help you as much as it helps your community? There’s nothing selfish about seeking a win-win.

Here are three excellent (if slightly selfish) reasons to volunteer:

1.) Do it for the money

The Corporation for National and Community Service estimates that, in the last year alone, volunteers across America have provided an estimated $184 billion in the value of their service. At first glance, that might seem impossible, but if we take it down to each individual person, it starts to make sense. Let’s pretend a volunteer at a soup kitchen got paid. Let’s say their minimum wage is $7.25 and they worked three hours every week, times 10 different volunteers at that soup kitchen. That’s $11,310 each year that the soup kitchen can spend on countless other things: fresh or canned food, extra for patrons to take home, or even something as simple as more comfortable chairs. The more time your child spends volunteering, the less money your city (and you as a taxpayer) have to spend on keeping that city clean and healthy.

2.) Do it for the job

Though some might see volunteer hours as less time your child could spend at a job, statistics show that volunteering helps a lot in the long run. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that volunteers have a 27% better chance of finding a job than non-volunteers. On a more long-term note, volunteer hours are always on a college’s top list of things they look for on an application. Volunteering may mean lots of hours and transportation right now, but the shining spot on your child’s resume in the future makes it all worthwhile.

3.) Do it for growth

Volunteering, in the end, is all about two things: making a difference and growing as a person. If your child has the opportunity to impact someone else’s life, it will always change their own. Even the thanks they get from something as dull as collecting trash or shelving books is enough to show them the impact they can have.

How To Get Your Spring Break On


Spring break isn’t just for party-hearty college students anymore. These days, families are also taking a break from winter and jetting off to sun-drenched climates to frolic on warm beaches. 

Spring break for college students spans the first few weeks of March, while families are more inclined to take their spring vacation to coincide with the long Easter weekend, which runs from April 3-5 this year, orPassover, which is April 22-30 this year. The fact that college and public school holidays don’t overlap should ensure that PG-rated co-eds don’t intrude on a G-rated family vacation. 

Although toasting spring’s arrival goes back to Greek and Roman celebrations, its modern incarnation is blamed on a Colgate University swimming coach bringing his team to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for training back in 1934. 

Sensing a marketing opportunity, Fort Lauderdale organized an annual swim meet, and the rest is history. Buoyed by the 1961 movie “Where the Boys Are,” starring George Hamilton; and the 1983 “Spring Break” with Tom Cruise and Shelley Long, the annual ritual has exploded. The 1986 arrival of the annual “MTV Spring Break” hasn’t hurt either. 

South Florida is still the center of the college spring break universe. So, if you can find a cheap flight and some friends to share in the cost of a hotel room, grab your bathing suit and beach towel and you’re in. Beaches in Florida cities such as Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach quickly become oceans of tanned bodies once spring break hits, with crowds as large as 400,000 people. 

While large crowds are considered a plus for college spring break celebrants, they can lead to frustration and annoyance if you’re a family seeking relaxation while having a few young kids in tow. 

Orlando, home of Disney World and other resorts, is a surefire hit with both kids and budget-conscious parents. But spring break is also the second-busiest time of year, behind Christmas and New Year’s. Granted, you cansurvive long lines by arriving early and packing your own snacks. But if you go to Orlando for spring break, be prepared for company. 

One popular strategy for guaranteeing family fun without blowing the budget is vacationing in an all-inclusive resort. Familyvacationcritic.comhas a list of the top 50 all-inclusive resorts for families in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Cayman Islands and other exotic Caribbean locales. Rates during peak times start at about $300 per person for a five-day stay. Resorts typically feature pools, beaches, fun-filled activities, and meals-all in a safe family-friendly environment. 

Cruises are another popular option, offering activities and services for the whole family, including movies, swimming, waterslides, varied dining options and more. 

But spring break doesn’t have to be all about the beach, especially for families. Visiting a budget-friendly city with inexpensive airline flights can be both entertaining and an educational option for the entire family. 

Los Angeles was the Fiscal Times’ top family spring break destination due to the number of attractions and places to visit. In addition, airfare prices to the city generally don’t experience a spring break surge due to the high volume of flights. Five new hotels, a strong U.S. dollar and a nearby adventure park helped make Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the second most popular spring break family destination. 

Las Vegas, Quebec City, Phoenix and New York are other great destination cities for family vacations. Norway also landed on the list due to competition among air carriers that has driven airfares below $200, and Spain was suggested because airfares to Barcelona are on par with flights to South Florida this time of year. 

For college students, eight of Kayak’s top 10 spring break destinations for 2015 are within the continental United States and four of those are in Florida. 

Home to the annual SXSW Festival, down-home rib joints, great Mexican food and walkable avenues lined with jumping live-music venues, Austin, Texas topped the list. It was followed by Fort Lauderdale, with its beaches, beachside bars, warm weather and manatees. 

Los Angeles was No. 3 on the list, with median airfare at just $352 in late April. Southern California is home to magnificent beaches such as Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice. In addition, plenty of culture can be found in downtown Los Angeles. But be advised that spring is the wet season, and a powerful El Nino is in the forecast this year, so your chances of rain falling on your spring break parade are fairly high. 

Miami, or SoBe for South Beach, has a lot going for it as a spring break destination. Its chic Art Deco hotels, fun atmosphere, packed beaches and club culture helped it reach No. 4 on Kayak’s 2015 list. But timing is everything. Median airfares reach a high of nearly $600 in early April, but fall to below $400 later in the month. Try to avoid the Winter Music Conference, scheduled for March 21-24 this year. South Beach hotel rooms will fill up and airfares soar during that time. 

Three other Florida beach towns also made Kayak’s top 10, including West Palm Beach (No. 5); Fort Myers (No. 6), and the family-friendly Tampa (No. 10). 

The two top spring break destinations outside the continental United States were Los Cabos, Mexico, with beaches, bars, and ocean activities; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which boasts beaches and rainforests. 

Although the typical beach party spring break remains a popular rite of passage for many college students, some are craving alternatives. A group called Break Awayoffers active citizenship and leadership conferences for college students during spring break. Similarly,Projects Abroad promises an opportunity to make a difference by participating in volunteer projects such as rebuilding homes for the poor in Jamaica, protecting endangered turtles in Mexico  or providing educational support for underprivileged children in Costa Rica, Belize, or Fiji. 

One thing is certain: Whatever your preference for marking the arrival of spring, there’s something fun and affordable you can try, alone or as a family.

What School Doesn’t Teach You About Money


With the new school year either here or just around the corner, it’s time to fill your shopping carts with #2 pencils, protractors and all the goodies the kids will lose by the second day of school.  If they’re headed off to college, it can be even more exciting. But, instead of needing you to replace their pens on day two, your college-aged child will probably be calling to ask for money by then. 

It’s such a ritual that, at this point, many of us don’t really question it. But how much do our kids actually know about money?  You might want to only include the lessons you taught them, because their school probably didn’t teach them much at all.

Common core and other national guidelines don’t include requirements for teaching budgeting skills, how to balance a checkbook, or even explanations of basic concepts such as credit, loans, or mortgages. Basically, the last time your children learned about money at school, it probably involved finding out how many apples and oranges they could buy in some middle school math word problem.

We talked to some credit union members about the lessons they want to pass onto their kids, and below you’ll find some of our favorite lessons to teach your kids. 

  • Pay yourself first.  No one else is going to make you a financial priority, so don’t make them your financial priority.  
  • If you want to know if you can afford something, check your budget. If you have to check your checking account, you can’t afford it.  If you reconcile your accounts every month, you’ll have a pretty good idea how much is actually in each account.  But having enough money isn’t the same thing has having enough money.  Plan ahead. Make a budget. Execute the plan by sticking to that budget.
  • Take risks while you’re young.  You can afford to be more aggressive with your retirement and college funds while you have plenty of time to make it back up, so don’t be afraid to push those funds a little bit.  That said, not saving for retirement is not a risk. It’s just a bad idea.   
  • Make sure the Joneses are keeping up with you.  It’s easy to get lost trying to compete with your peers and almost as easy to ignore those consumer pressures entirely.  But what about the third option?  Instead of ignoring their financial situation, check in every now and then to see if they need help.  Our communities are better when we care about each other.

Whether your kids are in diapers or their kids are wearing them, it’s never too early or too late to teach financial literacy.  Make sure you’re instilling the right lessons, and check back in with Destinations Credit Union, because we’ve always got plenty of resources for young people to learn the lessons they aren’t getting in math class.