Kids Turn Technology Around On Adults, Once Again

from the ringtone-reversal dept

Late last year, we wrote about how some British shopkeepers were trying to drive teenaged troublemakers away from their storefronts by playing an annoying high-pitched noise that’s inaudible to adults but can be heard by young people. As often happens with these things, some teens in the UK recorded the noise and began using it as a ringtone. Smelling an opportunity, the security company that makes the “mosquito box” equipment for store owners began selling it, and now, thanks to the magic of the internet, American kids are getting in on the fun, using the noise as a ringtone to avoid being detected by teachers or parents. But some adults are adapting, with one local council in Australia playing something kids aren’t likely to pick up as a ringtone in an attempt to keep them away: Barry Manilow’s greatest hits.

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Comments on “Kids Turn Technology Around On Adults, Once Again”

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Derek Kerton (profile) says:


Hmmm. Call me doubting Thomas, but this story doesn’t sound right to me. I’m willing to bet that the main factor is that the ringtone is relatively quiet, and that the teacher is just too far away to hear it.

With sound in a classroom, an inverse square law applies (assuming that the ceiling and floor of the class are reflective): that is if the teacher is 7 meters from the phone, and the student is 0.5 meters from the phone, the student hears a sound 196 times stronger by simple virtue of proximity.

This isn’t an area of expertise for me, but my guess is that human audible range stays rather consistent throughout life, up to ~60 years, when hearing generally degrades.

And what’s even more obvious, but never got discussed in the story, is that there’s a function called ‘vibrate’ which already does an admirable job of excluding your teacher from the tickle in your pocket.

Anyone out there got any scientific basis for significantly decreased audible tonal range with age?

Jus B says:

I agree with you derek, I think the words were wrong in the story though, I will assume that the sound, isnt a sound that only kids can hear…

I think its simply an annoying sound, who would stand near a speaker that plays a single noted sound that jus sounds bothersome, I wouldnt, and I don t think adults are bothered because they dont stand at shop-fronts.

But I do give the kids props for using the same sound as a ringtone… kinda like a Middle finger to shop owners

david says:

maybe i should publish a paper...

doesn’t matter if it’s not 18khz as long as it’s out of adult hearing range, which – if my parents are any indication – is about 10khz. yes i know it’s not nice to do experiments on people, but what’s a budding sound engineer to do?

p.s. 10khz was the lower limit for sound that they “didn’t notice.” but if i played that tone for them, they could tell me when it was on. so yes they can hear 10khz, but it doesn’t get their attention.

Becca McDonald says:

some clarification....

I thought I might add some information as I am an audiologist. While I have not heard this new ringtone, I can tell you that this so-called “adult hearing loss” is really noise induced hearing loss which usually occurs at 3K, 4K, 6K and 8K Hz. Alot of times, it will appear as a notch at one of the above frequencies. I would like to know where the sound is so that I can test it out. I can put it in a test box and see which frequency it is broadcasting.

I guess the last thing I will say is this: If you have kids and are having problems hearing the ringtone, please get your hearing tested.

Becca McDonald

Mrs. Susanna Richards says:

teachers veiw on this toy

I am a 8th grade math teacher and a young man in my class had this ringtone. i, being a grown woman, can not hear this sound. My husband and I have a 12 year niece and she and her little friends have cellular phones and ringing tunes. one of them has the ‘mosquito’ tune. we had a litle test and i could not hear it at all. the next day i heard the kids talking about it in class. I took them to the principle at once, for i knew what it was now. For over a moth they were ‘texting’ in the classroom. i dislike it very very much. they are missing out on vital learning time. i think it should maybe even be illigal.

Aprilanna Hope Johnsons says:

Mrs. Susanna Richards is stupid


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