A toy that is popular with young children on mainland China and is used as a “stress-reliever” is causing deep concern, with child behavioural experts warning it could encourage violence.
The vividly colourful plastic toy knife, nicknamed “Carrot Knife”, has been selling well online and in stores across the country in recent weeks. Some outlets have already sold 100,000 of the toys, which cost from as little as two yuan (28 US cents) to about 20 yuan.
Some are so small they can be gripped in the palm of a child’s hand while others are as long as a metre. They can also be extended to different sizes and turned into different shapes. Some come with luminous devices and some are pistol-shaped. Others can be attached to a mobile phone case.
There are various ways of playing with the Carrot Knife, with the most common being to hold it, shake it around, and then let the blade drop out of its sheath. Youngsters then mimic stabbing actions with it – some even jab at their friends as part of a game.
Children say the toy is fun and can help them feel better when they are playing with it.
A shop assistant in Guangzhou in southeastern China’s Guangdong province recommended the toy for children over three years old.
“It is not dangerous at all”, the woman claimed. “It’s not sharp, or acute. It is made of plastic, not metal.”
However, Yang Sifan, a professor from Chongqing Normal University, disagrees.
He says the toy is a safety risk because it has the potential to injure children, especially if it makes contact with their eyes, if they fall on it, or if it is thrust too hard at them and makes contact with their body.
The scholar said that playing Carrot Knife could also have a negative psychological impact on children.
“Holding the toy knife to do the moves of stabbing or jabbing might stimulate children’s propensity for violence. It could increase the possibility of children using the real knife and doing the same action,” Yang said.
Zha Xianqiong, an Anhui-based counselling psychologist, suggested parents should inform their children of the safety risks of the toy and tell them not to mimic dangerous actions such as stabbing.
Amid the widespread debate about the issue on Chinese social media, a number of commenters have disagreed with the experts.
“I think they are too sensitive,” one person said on Douyin.
“All boys like to play with [toy] knives, swords, and guns. If this toy is banned, what toy do you suggest they play? Dolls?” another user asked.
It is not the first toy that has caused concern on the mainland.
“Fake water”, also called “crystal mud”, is a type of stretchable synthetic slime that was sold widely to children in China. Laboratory tests in Shenzhen found it contained high levels of boron, a toxic chemical that poses a serious health hazard.