What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

From the Department of Yeah, That’ll Fly, a sour note on Better Living Through Crowd Control Technology:

The Mosquito – a crowd-control device emitting a pulsing sound that bugs teenagers but can’t be heard by most adults – is creating a big buzz in Britain and may soon invade New York.

So far, 50 of the $750 black-box gadgets marketed online at kidsbegone.com have been sold stateside – and one is set to be piloted in a New Jersey skate park, to stop large groups of teens from gathering after closing hours.


The Mosquito was invented by Howard Stapleton, using research showing that after the age of 25 adults lose the ability to detect high-frequency sounds that teens can hear clearly.

“In the space of two weeks, it managed to solve a seven-year problem,” said Chris Reynolds, community safety officer for Ealing Council in West London, which installed the device outside an apartment building for seniors where “bored children were creating noise and nuisance.

“It doesn’t in any way damage kids’ hearing – it sets off a really annoying pulse,” said Reynolds, who is 26 and can barely detect the sound.


Dan Santell, who sells the device in the U.S., said Mosquito foes should consider that teenagers themselves download the sound as a ringtone because it can’t be heard by teachers.

Um, Dan? You may want to warn those kids that the sound is only inaudible to persons over 25 who’ve abused their eardrums by listening to too much loud music. This presupposes that everyone over 25 has suffered high-frequency hearing loss due to noise pollution, but not everyone has. Surprise: some of us were prudent about hearing protection in our teens, and the sound, which is annoyingly like tinnitus, is still perfectly audible to us. I am in my late 30s and was able to hear it just fine. (You can too, by just clicking here.)

Oh, and kids? You can defeat this device by investing a buck or two in some noise-blocking earplugs. In fact, buy the plugs anyway, and wear them to concerts. And turn down the volume on your earphones! That way, you too will be able to hear this affront to civil liberties well into your thirties–just like your humble scribe!

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One Response to What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

  1. Ben Gruagach says:

    Since the “mosquito” was announced about a year ago, teens with cellphones have been downloading copies of the sound off the internet and using it as cell phone rings. That way they can hear when their phone is ringing but adults-who-can’t-hear-it (like some teachers in schools, or parents) don’t know!
    Here’s an NPR article about the mosquito ringtone.

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