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Mosquito controversy goes high-profile

Mosquito - image from Compound Security

The Mosquito anti-teenager sound device, which we’ve covered on this site a few times, was yesterday heavily criticised by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, launching the BUZZ OFF campaign in conjunction with Liberty and the National Youth Agency: Buzz Off logo

Makers and users of ultra-sonic dispersal devices are being told to “Buzz Off” today by campaigners who say the device, which emits a high-pitched sound that targets under 25 year olds, is not a fair or reasonable solution for tackling anti-social behaviour. The campaign… is calling for the end to the use of ultra-sonic dispersal device. There are estimated to be 3,500 used across the country.

The BUZZ OFF campaign will be driven by young people who have been affected by the device and will aim to provoke debate and thought amongst parents, government, businesses, the police and others about the increasingly negative way society views and deals with children and young people.

The government has said it has no plans to ban the Mosquito.

The main point here is of course that the use of the Mosquito is in effect discriminatory architecture, designed to punish/annoy/prevent/target one particular group of people, whether or not those individuals have actually done anything wrong – as Sir Albert told the BBC:

These devices are indiscriminate and target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving.

It’s the same mentality as removing benches because you don’t like the sort of people who use benches (or demonstrated by other techniques in this area). Many different points of view on the subject have been expressed by commenters here over the last couple of years, from kids fed up with being assumed guilty, to members of the public fed up with kids hanging around and intimidating people.

As with blue lighting in public toilets, the Mosquito is unlikely to solve the ‘problem’ at hand: it will simply move it elsewhere. It’s displacing the symptom rather than curing the illness, and – as has been pointed out in numerous recent news stories – it exemplifies a pervasive antipathy towards young people which is rather disturbing (I mentioned this before in reference to the “device to stop young people congregating” search query which led someone to this site.) Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti – while I don’t always agree with everything she says – puts it very concisely:

What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children?
Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids.

The Mosquito has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect.

Incidentally, the 15 kHz, 17.5 kHz and 20 kHz wave files which I put on this site a couple of years ago before coming across the Mosquito-inspired Teen Buzz ringtone still bring more search engine traffic than any other article (the mobile phone moisture-detection stickers are a close second). If you’re interested in testing your hearing, the Free Mosquito Ringtones site has since done a better job with a wide range of frequencies.

Top image from Compound Security’s website; Buzz Off logo from Children’s Commissioner press release [Word document].


  1. Positive uses?

    All cars emit such sounds from their fronts. Inexperienced youngsters’ lives saved. Experienced adults enjoy quiet streets.

    Subversive uses?

    Drug dealers use them to attract kids without alerting too many disapproving adults. Secret ‘ice cream van’ jingles?

    Contrary uses?

    10second fuses on terrorist bombs emit these sounds to warn the youth against the sins of their fathers. Youngsters duck/scarper. Adults get blown up.

    Sorry, but it’s diffult thinking of a situation in which you’d want to dispel youth for positive reasons whilst retaining adults for negative reasons. Perhaps there’s a nicer example? Maybe play these noises at a Barry Manilow concert to save inquisitive youngsters from a horror not to be experienced before pensionable age?

  2. Cheeky Wagon

    I live part time in Derry, Northern Ireland. There are a number of kids here who are congregating and becoming violent. And all across the UK as well, ASBO teens are congregating in parks to get drunk and there are violent situations erupting out of it. Young children often can’t even go to playgrounds in their own estates anymore, due to drunk teens.

    Drink culture is pervasive and it needs to be displaced with acceptable teen entertainment, such as coffee shops and arcades, church groups, after-school and extracurricular activities. The mosquito is only one solution to the problem, but it isn’t just convenience stores that need them, it’s estate playgrounds, and they need to be on timers to turn on at dark.

    The only acceptable compromise is to have the mosquito off for a couple hours a day after school, or whenever the teens rush the business to buy sodas and food. Then as the evening approaches and they should be home with parents, switch it on. But that is up to individual businesses.

    Honestly, if they work well enough to get the innocent kids upset, then something is being done right. That means the ASBO teens are just as annoyed and going elsewhere. If you don’t know what it’s like to have drink/drug scene teenagers plaguing your business, don’t complain about the good that device does.

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  4. My parents have a device that makes some type of high noise along with clicking to keep deer away. I don’t really hear it, but whenever we visit, my kids (18 and 21, not really kids anymore) make them turn it off. I guess these devices work on the same principle.

    Perhaps, a new use for the mosquito would be to keep deer out of convenience stores.

    My wife says that if my son doesn’t find a job (now that he is graduating), maybe we should get one for the house. But, I think she’s kidding.

  5. Chris

    "The mosquito is only one solution to the problem, but it isn’t just convenience stores that need them, it’s estate playgrounds, and they need to be on timers to turn on at dark….Then as the evening approaches and they should be home with parents, switch it on. But that is up to individual businesses."

    Are you seriously suggesting a curfew for everyone under 25? I’m 19, and I may want to walk through a public open space at night, or wait outside a shop. Do I not have that right, then? I frequently get annoyed at the tendency by the media to make sweeping statements about all "young people", forgetting that the majority of them are perfectly respectable citizens that have a hard time being taken seriously. Indiscriminately punishing everyone in a certain category is hardly the way to run a society; perhaps if you were one of the people having their freedom restricted you’d think differently too.

    @octavia: for me the sound didn’t work, I suspect as the speakers I’m using don’t have a very good sound range. You may be younger than you think!

  6. blah

    I hear the sound, and I’m almost 40. Seriously, if I was a kid wanting to destroy a park that played this sound, I’d just wear earplugs.
    If I was a kid crossing the street and a car making this sound was coming, I wouldn’t know it meant to get away from the car.
    It’s not that annoying a sound for a short time. It gets annoying after hearing it for a long time.
    A better sound would be someone shouting “get away! get away!” Then, if I was a child, I would run. A tone it meaningless. Kids hear lots of sounds.

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