by Melissa Block
May 26, 2006 The war between teens and authority figures has a new — or old — front: ears. British shopkeepers tired of teenage loiterers have turned to the Mosquito teen repellent, which emits a high-pitch frequency that most teenagers can hear — but not most adults.
But now teens have struck back against the Mosquito: They are using the same sound to communicate without adults' knowledge.
At issue is a text-message ringtone that emits the same pitch as the Mosquito. Using it, students can learn about a new message while they're in class — where they're not supposed to be using their cellphones. Most of their teachers can't hear the alert.
Inventor Howard Stapleton, creator of the Mosquito teen repellent, says only a few people over age 30 can hear the Mosquito's sound. He and his 16-year-old daughter Isabel talk to Melissa Block about the sound, which has been dubbed
CONVERSATION IN MP3.
BLOCK: Isabel, I assume if you wanted to, you could set your phone to vibrate and get the text message, and I guess the idea is you want it to be something that only the teenagers can hear while the teacher cannot. That's part of the fun.
Ms. STAPLETON: Yes. Actually, when a phone does vibrate, you can actually hear the noise with some phones, so the Teen Buzz is quite useful for in-class text messages.
BLOCK: Have you used it yourself in class?
Ms. STAPLETON: Yes, I have, actually.
Mr. STAPLETON: Well, that's it. She's in trouble now.
BLOCK: Well, have you gotten in trouble? I was going to ask you.
Ms. STAPLETON: No, I haven't, but I've seen my friends get in trouble for it.
BLOCK: And, Howard, you're responsible in some way.
Mr. STAPLETON: Yeah, I'm becoming, I'm not sure famous, but I'm certainly becoming infamous.
BLOCK: Well, Howard and Isabel Stapleton, thanks for coming in. Good to talk to you.
Mr. STAPLETON: Thank you very much.
Ms. STAPLETON: Thank you. Bye.
BLOCK: That's Howard Stapleton, creator of the Mosquito Teen Repeller, and his 16-year-old daughter, Isabel. They spoke with us from Cardiff, Wales. You can test your hearing with that Teen Buzz ringtone at NPR.org.