TODAY

TODAY   |  June 02, 2010

Is banning Bandz just plain silly?

TODAY’s Amy Robach takes a look at why stretchy rubber-band wrist bracelets, known as Silly Bandz, are causing a stir in classrooms across the country, forcing many school administrators to ban them.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: We're back now at 8:37 with Silly Bandz , those silicone bracelets that seem to be all the rage now. They come in a variety of shapes and colors and they catch the eyes of kids. Now they're also getting the attention of some school administrators. TODAY's national correspondent Amy Robach has more on that. Hi, Amy.

AMY ROBACH reporting: Hey. These are a huge hit in my house. If you have a tween, chances are you've seen these bracelets. But what you may not know is that these stretchy bands are causing quite a stir in classrooms. Some teachers are fed up, leaving schools no choice but to ban them. Call them silly but they're all the rage.

Unidentified Girl #1: I like the fun shapes.

Unidentified Girl #2: Really?

Unidentified Boy #1: Oh, look, there's -- those are really cool.

Unidentified Boy #2: How many do you have?

ROBACH: Silly Bandz are the latest elementary school fad and the trend is catching on quickly.

Unidentified Girl #3: My friend has like -- there's like so many that she has them in a safe.

ROBACH: Kids are buying them faster than stores can supply them.

Unidentified Woman #1: As you can see, we're all sold out. They're flying off the shelf.

ROBACH: But at some schools, Silly Bands are getting a failing grade. So now that you can't have Silly Bandz in school what do you think about that?

Unidentified Girl #4: Very upsetting.

ROBACH: In fact, schools all over the country are banning the Bandz . Principal Karen White of Gardendale , Alabama , was one of the first.

Ms. KAREN WHITE (Principal, Snow Rogers Elementary School): They became a very big distraction, they caused problems with the students.

ROBACH: So you're supposed to be taking a test...

Unidentified Girl #5: Yeah.

ROBACH: ...and instead, you were trading Silly Bandz .

Girl #5: Yeah.

ROBACH: And the ban has spread as quickly as the craze itself, much to the delight of parents and teachers alike.

Unidentified Woman #2: I said hallelujah, great, excellent.

Ms. MELBA POSEY (Teacher, Snow Rogers Elementary School): They're more attentive, they're not distracted by what everybody else is doing and what everyone else has on.

ROBACH: Ban or no ban, this silly trend is here to stay. And you might wonder why all the frenzy? Well, the creator attributes it in part to the economy; at just $5 for a pack of 24, Silly Bandz are a pretty good buy for cost-conscious parents. Matt:

LAUER: All right, Amy . Thank you very much . Dr. Janet Taylor is a psychiatrist and clinical instructor at Columbia University . Mary McCarthy is the creator of pajamasandcoffee.com and a mother of four herself. Ladies, good morning to both of you.

Dr. JANET TAYLOR (Psychiatrist, Columbia University): Good morning.

LAUER: To ban them or not to ban them; go ahead.

Dr. TAYLOR: Well, I mean, the thing is are they a distraction, are they dangerous? Clearly they're not dangerous unless you're under three, but the real issue is recreational vs. education, and as parents we want to make sure our kids go to school with something educational and leave the recreation at home. But, I mean, they're fun but...

LAUER: But, I mean, under those guidelines, wouldn't you have to ban a lot of other things as well?

Dr. TAYLOR: Well, I mean, clearly, I mean, the focus is probably misguided, but again, if they're a distraction, let the parents decide how many they have and talk to kids about focusing on -- at school, but don't ban them in general.

LAUER: Mary , you don't -- you don't think they should be banned, right?

Ms. MARY McCARTHY (Mom and Blog Creator, pajamasandcoffee.com): I don't. I mean, as a parent of four, I have a high school student , a middle school , elementary school and preschool and they all wear them, they love them, they're inexpensive, they're fun. You said it best, they're fun. Do we need to suck all the fun out of childhood? Really.

LAUER: I mean, I guess if the classroom is filled with kids trading them while they're supposed to be learning algebra, that's one thing, but that's a teacher's responsibility to instill a little, you know, order in the classroom.

Ms. McCARTHY: Right.

LAUER: It's a parent's responsibility...

Ms. McCARTHY: Absolutely.

LAUER: ...to send your kids to school ready to learn and not trade Silly Bandz .

Ms. McCARTHY: Right.

Dr. TAYLOR: I mean, it's a time to get prepared and talk to kids about wearing them and not shooting them across the room and clearly to be able to focus. But, I mean, just like Mary gave me these, you can learn things, you can share with them. And it's just something simple, but you have to understand time for school and time for play.

LAUER: I usually worry about the status element of these things, you know, but these are so affordable, I mean, they're really only a few pennies a piece, that that seems to not be the problem where they're going to be the haves and the have-nots in the class.

Ms. McCARTHY: Right. Not only are they affordable, but the other thing is that kids share with the kids that don't have them, and I've seen it a ton. So my daughter who's seven, I asked her about coming here, I said, `What's -- what do you like about Silly Bandz ?' And she said, `They're fun and we like to trade them.' But I have actually seen them give kids that don't have any -- the kids who have tons of them share them with the other kids, which is kind of a neat thing, too.

LAUER: You know, if there is one thing that's -- we can all agree on here, someone's making a fortune.

Dr. TAYLOR: They are.

LAUER: I mean, someone is making...

Ms. McCARTHY: It's a rubber band bracelet.

LAUER: It probably costs a penny to make and they're selling 24 for $5. So, you know, maybe there's an economic lesson for your kids, too.

Dr. TAYLOR: Oh, there's an economic...

Ms. McCARTHY: Yeah.

Dr. TAYLOR: But also with your kids, don't let your kids sleep in them at night, watch them if you have young kids under three. If you notice your kid's arms are turning colors because they have 100 on, as parents we have to watch that.

LAUER: All right.

Ms. McCARTHY: And for schools, I mean, I think it's easy to turn it into a creative thing, too, they can do math, they come in letters of the alphabet.

LAUER: Yeah. By the way, when you ban something, you tend to make them more popular, not less.

Dr. TAYLOR: Much bigger.

Ms. McCARTHY: Absolutely.

Dr. TAYLOR: Absolutely.

LAUER: And so if you -- if you don't do anything, they're probably going to fade away and the next trend will be ushered in.

Ms. McCARTHY: Right.

LAUER: Ladies, thank you very much .