Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Mosquito That Rings In Your Ear

A particular news story has been ringing in my ears this week, perhaps you have also heard about The Mosquito.

A new device dubbed The Mosquito is being reported as a revolutionary teen loitering deterrent. This small box with a $1500 price tag is designed to be affixed to a location and emit a high frequency sound that is supposedly heard only by teenagers. Its makers at kidsbegone.com claim that this sound is merely annoying and drives the young, would-be vagrants to a "quieter" location.

Curious as to what this "mosquito buzzing in your ear" may actually sound like, I did a quick Google search and found a few links that are supposedly the same sound amplified by the device.
When I played the Mp3 at a low volume, I was unable to hear the sound, but after cranking the dial up I was indeed able to hear a high pitched ringing sound, that in no way resembled the sound of an insect. Imagine instead the high pitched ring that resonates in your ears after spending hours at a loud concert or perhaps after being too close to fireworks on Fourth of July.

Interested in whether my husband could hear the sound, I played it a few times more. My daughter, who is nine, could hear the sound at a very low volume as could my seven year old son, our four year old even came into the room to ask us to please "turn off the alarm".

The kids all complained that the sound was too loud and, to my shock and surprise, they said that it hurt their ears.

I understand the frustration of businesses and property managers when teenagers decide that their stoop is a great new hang-out, but using a method of control that is indiscriminate in who it drives away is a terrible idea. More importantly, we have no research into what prolonged exposure may do to young children, who are definitely able to hear this sound. Fortunately, there are other people who share this view and are taking action.

This new invention also offers us a opportunity to consider how adults and teens are interacting.

I find it a bit disconcerting that adults would prefer the anonymous communication provided by a technological sound box as opposed to an actual conversation with teenagers or their parents. I have no doubt that teens can be difficult to reason with, but perhaps they would be better suited for adulthood if we actually began to teach them to interact with adults in a mature manner when they are young.

Our society seems to view adolescence as a complete vacation from reality, authority, and responsibility. Now, thanks to this new automated dog whistle, we can add human communication to that list!!!

If you would like to listen to those high-pitched frequencies, here is a link and an article explaining a bit of the science here, but be aware that prolonged listening can aggravate your ears.