“Teen Buzz,” the Mosquito Ring Tone

It was bound to happen. Technology originally designed to discourage teens from loitering in certain locations is now being used by teens to hide incoming phone calls and text messages on their cellphones.

In November I wrote about the Mosquito, a device invented by Howard Stapleton, managing director of Compound Security Systems (CSS), that was intended to help reduce the number of teens “hanging out” at locations where they tend gather and become disruptive. The Mosquito works by generating a loud, pulsating ultra-sonic tone that can generally only be heard by those under 20 years old.

Although the Mosquito has been successful, teens have adopted this technology for their own use: ring tones that cannot be heard by adults. Using a recording of the Mosquito as a ring tone, teens have found a way to send and receive text messages from their cellphones while in places where phones are forbidden, such as a class room.

“Our high-frequency buzzer was copied. It is not exactly what we developed, but it’s a pretty good imitation,” said Simon Morris, marketing director for CSS. “You’ve got to give the kids credit for ingenuity.” About a month ago, CSS’s website traffic spiked, as more than 100,000 kids tried to download the sound.

Today, a visit to Compound Security’s website finds an advertisement hawking the new ring-tone. An interesting development for a company that initially developed the sound to drive teens away.

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