Mosquito bite

Posted on: 03/12/2008

Written by Adam Knowles

A recent study commissioned by Barnardo’s, a children’s charity, has supposedly shown that around half of the adults interviewed considered children to behave like animals—increasingly dangerous.
The credibility of this study has been criticized, as some of the questions seem to have been leading. But how many people could have been genuinely surprised at the results? The stereotype of teenagers as ‘hoodies’ is a common one. Vicky Pollard, one of the more memorable characters from Little Britain, is based heavily on such stereotypes.
However, not all manifestations of this divide between old and young are so light-hearted. The Mosquito, an ultrasonic alarm, has been described by its manufacturer as “the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems.” One enthusiastic buyer allegedly said: “Either someone has come along and wiped them [the teenagers] off the face of the earth, or it’s working.” Charming.

The device exploits presbycusis—age relating hearing loss. At around age 25, a person becomes unable to detect sound frequencies at the extremes of human hearing, at which the Mosquito functions. This makes it easy to discriminate against teenagers, but of course, it’s the indiscriminate qualities of the device that make it so vile. While it is marketed as being a quick and easy way of dispersing gangs of youths, even babies and toddlers will be exposed to the incessant beeping whine of the Mosquito. Unfortunately, their parents probably won’t, so the child will just have to sit in the pram and listen to it.
One should consider whether a similar device aimed at repelling, say, a specific ethnic minority would be received so well. Such a function would, thankfully, be impossible to achieve—but the inequality would be the same, though it is not yet clear whether the device constitutes a human rights violation. 
One reason such a thing could be allowed in the case of teenagers is, quite simply, that the views of young people are not easily expressed.  Those under 18 can not vote, and have relatively little influence on a shop’s profits. A boycott in opposition to the Mosquito would be totally ineffective for obvious reasons, as would any protest held outside the offending establishment. After all, the Mosquito is designed to drive away such “unwanted gatherings.”
Clearly it would be beneficial to shopkeepers if troublesome groups could be moved on at the press of a button, but this kind of discrimination isn’t the answer. The next logical step would be an alarm to repel drunks, then one against people who cough loudly on public transport, against people who whisper in the cinema. Before you know it, nobody will be able to leave their homes without earplugs.

If you’re interested, a hearing test at the frequency of the Mosquito is available at

Have you heard one of these? What did you do? Do you think they are a good idea? Add your comments below.


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