The controversial 'carrot knife:' passing fad or harmful overtones?

Yang Jian
A plastic plaything has sparked both amusement and concern among parents and teachers.
Yang Jian
The controversial 'carrot knife:' passing fad or harmful overtones?

The carrot knife is a plastic toy that is retractable and foldable, with bright colors to attract children.

Many parents have received notifications from schools recently raising concerns that the "carrot knife" – a popular toy sold on the Internet – may be unsafe for children and engender violent tendencies.

Schools are urging parents not to purchase these toys, and if they are bought, to keep them off school premises.

The carrot knife is a plastic toy that is retractable and foldable, resembling the shape of a carrot. It has caught the fancy of youngsters across the nation in less than a month.

Many online shops say they have sold 100,000 of the toys a month. On short-video platforms, topics related to the toys have amassed over 1.7 billion views.

The toy was the creation of a college student who dabbled in 3D printing. It was initially just one of his many works.

But somehow, it struck a chord on the popular video-sharing platform Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok. Videos featuring playful stabbings and throat-slitting gestures with the toy fascinated children.

The controversial 'carrot knife:' passing fad or harmful overtones?
Ti Gong

A short video going viral on the Internet shows how to play with the carrot knife.

The toy has divided public opinion. Authorities have expressed concerns about the toy's undercurrent of violent behavior, while many netizens are questioning the reason for such a fuss.

After a market supervision authority demonstrated the "power" of the carrot knife by piercing an A4 sheet of paper in a video, numerous netizens replied that even a ruler or a finger can pierce paper. The question they posed: Should we ban rulers at school or cut off our fingers?

"After all, who among us, especially boys, didn't have toy guns, sticks or knives in our childhood," one netizen posted.

In the Internet realm, trends swiftly come and go, and toys are no exception. Exposure to short videos online among minors has surged by an estimated 97 percent this year, compared with 66 percent in 2019.

Previous fads driven by the Internet in recent years included wax seals, Gudak cameras, journals, worry beads and wooden fish.

What seems to set the carrot knife apart is what some perceive as an underlying implication of violence. It has gained notoriety for its distinctive way of play – a single-handed, quick and rhythmic unsheathing, often followed by playful jabs or stabs.

Nearly all related videos on social media have featured scenes of simulated stabbing and throat-slitting with the toy.

The controversial 'carrot knife:' passing fad or harmful overtones?

A child plays with two carrot knives.

Despite its chubby appearance and soft plastic blade, the carrot knife faithfully replicates the structure of a spring-action knife, which is a controlled commodity in China. Such knives are often concealed, then suddenly deployed to cause severe injuries during street altercations.

Manufacturers of the toy have resorted to advertising slogans like "stab whomever you dislike" or "click, click, watch me stab you." Some even print similar messages on toy packaging.

The issue is not about any immediate harm the carrot knife can cause but rather the associations with real violence that it may suggest to minors.

However, an outright ban on the toy might not be the most way to resolve this conflict. If the carrot knife is prohibited, the play interests of children might simply be diverted to something equally controversial.

The controversial 'carrot knife:' passing fad or harmful overtones?
Ti Gong

Some upgraded versions of "carrot butterfly knives" and "claw knives" have appeared on e-commerce platforms.

The novelty of the carrot knife will inevitably wane. However, the controversy does point to the need for parents and schools to be concerned about the safety of playthings.

Schools should be explaining to children that the toy may be harmless but the idea of stabbing anyone is unacceptable.

Online video platforms also bear responsibility. Currently, if a search is done for "carrot knife" on Douyin, tips are provided to guide purchasers on proper usage.

The carrot knife controversy reminds us of the delicate balance between imaginative playthings and responsible safety. While children should be encouraged to have fun, we must also be vigilant about underlying messages that toys may convey.

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