The Mosquito ring tone: Kids hear it, adults can't
Friends of my daughter Becca recently held up a cell phone in the air and asked if I heard anything. I didn’t. Another cell phone went up and, again, I didn’t hear anything. I asked why they were trying to make me look like an idiot.
They said they weren’t; they were testing to see if a ring tone they had downloaded worked as advertised: Kids and teens can hear it but adults can’t.
Naturally I thought they were pulling my leg, until I checked, It's true, and so is this: Kids use it to text their friends in school when their phones are supposed to be off, and they use it at night, too, when their parents think they are sleeping but they simply, positively, must reach a friend without delay.
I was, in fact, a little behind the times. Several years ago, a device called the Mosquito was developed in Europe that emitted pulsating sounds at a frequency (of around 17 kilohertz) that would be irritating to kids and teens but not heard by the aging ears of most people over 20 or so.
The original idea was that adults could use the device to disperse congregating teens.
But that concept was turned on its head when somebody decided to use it as a cell phone ring tone. First in Europe and then in the United States, kids everywhere began to use it, sometimes for fun, sometimes when they didn’t want a teacher or parent knowing they were on their phones.
There is now a new twist to the Mosquito tone story: The Culture, Science and Education committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has voted to ban the original Mosquito device, according to the The Register in Britain.
The committee said that the "youth dispersal" devices treat young people "as if they were unwanted birds or pests" and that targeting them "is tantamount to degrading treatment prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights."
Oh yes, they also said, that more tests were needed to make sure there is no medical harm from the tones emitted by the Mosquito. The full assembly will debate the issue in June.
For the record, Britain’s home secretary, Alan Johnson, has supported the use of the devices:
“There is evidence that shows that such devices can be helpful ... where people feel that a congregation of rowdy young people is adversely affecting their quality of life. ... Of course, there are health and safety aspects and the devices have to be used carefully, but I am afraid I am committed to using any device-or rather, devices that do not involve cruel and unusual punishments, but which bring about the improvement in behavior that we all seek.”
Too late to take back all the downloaded cell phone rings. You can listen for yourself at http://www.freemosquitoringtones.org/.
I’d be interested in hearing from teachers about whether they have seen kids communicating during class with their cell phones by using this tone. Write in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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| March 19, 2010; 3:14 PM ET
Categories: Student Life | Tags: Mosquito ring tone
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