TECHNOLOGY designed to deter unruly teenagers has been hijacked and is now being used by them to their benefit in the classroom.The high-pitched sound emitted by the Mosquito device, was designed by Merthyr Tydfil-based inventor Howard Stapleton. Now a ringtone using the same technology has been recorded for use in school classrooms, because teachers are unable to hear its high frequency.
The Mosquito was initially designed to stop groups of youths hanging around outside shops. Its high frequency sound – like a constant insect buzzing – is inaudible to most people over 20 years of age, but is unbearable for younger people.
But youngsters have now turned the tables by putting the technology to use in the classroom, allowing pupils to exchange text messages on their mobile phones without the knowledge of their teachers.
The high pitched noise is being sent from phone to phone in a text message called “Teen Buzz”.
Simon Morris, commercial director of Merthyr-based Mosquito manufacturer Compound Security, was amazed that children had turned the idea around.
He said, “It’s staggering. The crazy thing is that it’s the kids themselves who are using an idea designed to annoy them.
“It isn’t exactly the same as our Mosquito noise but it works in a similar way – only the kids can hear it, not the teachers.
“It has the potential to be quite disruptive in the classroom.”
Police forces and small business have praised the Mosquito device and say it has improved business and community trouble spots.
But the company say they know hundreds of children are now using its idea of high-pitched noise to get away with mischief in the classroom.
Mr Morris said, “My worry is that the noise could be distressing for other kids in the classroom.
“After all it is a noise designed to irritate young ears.”
One teacher who uncovered the scam in a Cardiff secondary school said, “All the kids were laughing about something, but I didn’t know what.
“They know phones must be turned off during school-times although many are allowed to bring them into school for security reasons for the journey home.
“They could all hear somebody’s phone ringing but I couldn’t hear a thing.
“One of the other children told me all about it later. I couldn’t be too cross, because it shows how resourceful kids can be and it is very scientific.”
Rhys Williams, head of communications for NUT Cymru, said that while the ringtone was “inconvenient”, it was crucial for teachers to retain a sense of humour on the subject.
“All teachers will know that there comes a time when you either react in a very po-faced manner or you break down with laughter,” he said.
“One’s first reaction is to celebrate the ingenuity of youngsters.
“Teachers know that the youngsters in their charge are full of ingenuity, and the job of the teacher is to release that potential. That is sometimes released in unexpected ways that they don’t really approve of, but in a case like this, the celebration of ingenuity should come before a reaction of po-faced disapproval.
“We would praise them if this was a classroom project and they had solved a problem this way, and while it’s very inconvenient for teachers, we should be applauding ingenuity, rather than coming down too heavily on them.”
Mosquito devices have been sold around the world from Mr Stapleton’s base in Merthyr since its launch last year. It has been welcomed as an important step forward in crime prevention.
Author Gareth Morgan
Publication The Western Mail
Date 23 May 2006