What if there was a product that creates a terribly annoying sound only teenagers can hear? Wouldn’t that be fun? Well, that product has arrived. It’s appropriately called the Mosquito, and it’s basically a wall-mounted box that emits a high-frequency sound only audible to people who still have sensitive hair cells in their inner ears. In other words, young people.
“It’s horrible, loud and irritating,” 15-year-old Eddie Holder said in a conversation with The Huffington Post. The Mosquito was installed outside his apartment building in order to drive away teenage loiterers. “I have to hurry out of the building because it’s so annoying. It’s this screeching sound that you have to get away from, or it will drive you crazy.”
A company called Kids Be Gone started selling the Mosquito in the US last year and, so far, they’ve sold about 1,000 units at $1,500 a pop. Daniel Santell, the Mosquito’s marketer, told the Huff Post the noise can be heard by animals and babies, but is only annoying to kids older than 12. He said the noise becomes intolerable after a few minutes.
In Calvert County, Maryland, a mall has announced they intend to install a Mosquito in order to encourage skateboarding kids to leave the premises. And a school district in Columbia, South Carolina has installed a Mosquito in a parking lot where kids hang out after athletic games.
“We’d have crowds gather in parking lots and there’d be the usual trash talk, then you’d have fights,” Rick McGee, the school district’s emergency services manager, told Huff Post. “Now there’s no confrontation at all, they just get aggravated and leave within a few minutes.”
Carmen Ramirez, the superintendent of the apartment building where Eddie Holder lives, said the Mosquito is a “miracle.” She said they used to have all kinds of riff-raff bugging people in the building and doing “illegal things.” Now, with the Mosquito, the loiterers don’t come by anymore.
But not everyone is thrilled about the Mosquito. Civil liberties groups in Europe are outraged by it. In fact, the Children’s Commission in England refers to the Mosquito as a weapon that infringes on teenagers’ rights. They also say it could have unknown health effects.
In the US, people in towns like Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Milford, Connecticut have resisted attempts to install the Mosquito in their communities. In Milford, they increased police patrols in a park rather than install the Mosquito there.
James Alan Fox, a criminologist from Northeastern University, told Huff Post devices like the Mosquito are dangerous in the hands of private citizens. “There is a significant problem with giving people a tool like this and empowering the public to take over the tasks of law enforcement,” he said. “It can certainly be used in a way that’s inappropriate, and without a doubt it will be.”