Over the past few weeks much has been written about the current craze that is sweeping the world, the fidget spinner.
In recent days, I have listened to stories of arguments in the school yard over fidget spinners and noted students not doing work because they are distracted by the spinners. In an article on news.com.au, I noted that the President of the South Australian Primary Principals’ Association suggest that the devices are doing the opposite of what they were designed for. Elsewhere in the article an occupational therapist, Sandra Mortimer, said there was “nothing as yet to support this tool as a learning tool”. As they fill our classrooms, questions have been asked and issues presented. Are they good for children or just a distraction? Should we ban them from the classroom?
In this article, I want to take a slightly different approach. As a Christian school, we have the responsibility to teach our children how to engage in and with culture with a biblical lens. One mechanism to achieve this is through what we call a Creation-Fall-Redemption framework. What follows is a simple application of this model to fidget spinners.
In Genesis 1:26-28, we get the mandate to rule over or more aptly, care for the earth and everything in it. This can be known as the "cultural mandate". To positively do this as image bearers of God, we are to be creative, finding ways to develop systems, practices, tools and processes to care for God’s creation - the creation that we are a part of (Psalms 24:1). Fidget spinners have been described as a sensory device designed to help children with their anxiety and engagement in the classroom. This is a wonderful outworking of the cultural mandate. Yet there are, of course, many sensory devices that can be utilised.
It is clear, as described in the Scriptures, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). As people, we can act selfishly rather than love. We can corrupt what was intended for good. We can covet what other people have, rather than appreciate what we are blessed with. However, it may be that fidget spinners can be illustrative of a deeper issue, one related to consumerism and gratification. In an article by an Occupational Therapist I noted the following:
With the invention of the spinner fidgets, we take their brains to the next level of instant gratification. Moreover, again and again, we buy our children what they want, the moment they want it, without thinking if it is truly what they need. Now, they bring the spinners into the classroom; continuing to stimulate their brains all day long with high levels of spinning stimulation. The more they stimulate their brains, the more they will crave it, the less delayed gratification they will have, the less emotionally available for learning they will be.
As people who follow Christ, how are we to respond in this life? The Christian faith is more than a message. It is a life to be lived in community and before our wonderful gracious loving God. Jesus challenged people to act to love their neighbours and to live according to the Kingdom of God. He also suggested that we take up the cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).
So what is a Christian response? I would say that should our children have issues of anxiety or a diagnosis that suggests they may struggle to concentrate in the classroom, then health care professionals and/or the learning support coordinators and teachers in the College can often recommend ways to assist. Yet it also might be that we look elsewhere. For example, in an abc.net.au article, one person suggested in the days before these devices, people used to spin pens on their fingers or even roll coins across their knuckles. A bigger and more complex issue is how we respond as adults when our children say they are bored, or when they need the latest “something”. We should be careful and considerate.I f we look to gratify, then we may miss a great opportunity to assist them in problem-solving and finding ways to live thankfully with what they currently have.
May the Lord work in us as adults as we look to raise our wonderful children to know what it is to live in God’s world.