The Mosquito: An aural assault on young people

Issue 

A picture of two teens, a male and a female, with their fingers in their ears and pained looks on their faces greets visitors to the Compound Security Systems website. Compound Security Systems is the manufacturer of one of the latest security devices to arrive in Australia.

This device is called the Mosquito, described by CSS as an "ultrasonic teenage deterrent". CSS claims the device is "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".

The Mosquito takes advantage of presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, which begins at around 20 years of age and becomes more severe as a person ages. The Mosquito emits a high-pitched sound between 18 and 20kHz, which due to presbycusis can only be heard by people under 20.

This frequency causes all those who can hear it severe aural discomfort, and forces teenagers to vacate the area affected by the device. Despite assurances from CSS and the Australian distributor of this product that it is completely harmless, even with long-term use, doubts remain about the Mosquito's safety.

The Safer Rotherham Partnership in Britain, where some 3500 Mosquitos are in use according to a February 12 BBC report, has recommended the device should not be used until more research is done into its possible effects.

Not only does the device pose the threat of physical damage to those subjected to its use but it is a severe infringement of the rights of teenagers. Professor Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner for England, claims the device treats young people as criminals. The Yorkshire Star quoted him as saying: "I have spoken to many young people from all over England who have been deeply affected by ultrasonic teenage deterrents.

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

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