Picture the scene: You’re heading down to your local shop to pick up some essentials, and queue outside when you get there behind an elderly couple, in line with social distancing measures. It’s about ten seconds later that you realise something is a bit strange – you hear a high-pitched ringing noise, quite unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s incredibly irritating, and the noise is relentless. About a minute in, it starts to become painful, but covering your ears does nothing to stop it. Nobody else in the line seems to be reacting. Eventually it becomes so overwhelming that you give up and head home without the shopping you needed for that day.
Sounds pretty dystopian, right?
Imagine the same scenario happening to you while waiting for a bus? Or even outside the main door of your school?
This is a reality all too familiar to young people across Scotland, who have encountered the horrendous impact of a Mosquito device.
Marketed as ‘anti-loitering devices’, Mosquitos emit a high-pitched noise at a frequency only those under the age of 25 are able to hear. The noise is immediately irritating, and in time can become painful. It can cause headaches and migraines, tinnitus, increased anxiety and even panic attacks, in a few recorded instances, a survey of over 700 young people by youth charity Young Scot found.
The Mosquito was invented in 2005 to prevent anti-social behaviour from young people outside shops, transport hubs and other community hotspots, but in reality they completely miss the mark on their stated objective. These devices are indiscriminate, affecting all young people whether they are engaging in anti-social behaviour or not; cruel, emitting potentially painful sonic waves to any young person unlucky enough to cross their path; and dangerous, with little to no research having been conducted on their long-term impact.
What we do know is that these devices shouldn’t be legal. Not only have they been recorded to be responsible for the above effects on young people – with additional consequences and concerns for young people with sensory issues such as autism, and an unknown impact on the development of the hearing systems of young children and babies – but they also fly in the face of the human rights young people are entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Even putting to one side any general concerns about the right to health being violated by these monstrous machines, Article 15 of the UNCRC clearly states that young people have the right to freedom of assembly, clearly infringed by the use of these devices outside any area in which young people have a right to peacefully congregate.
This has been recognised by the UNCRC, as well as leading figures in the Children’s Rights arena such as Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, Together: the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, and the Scottish Youth Parliament, who have been campaigning for a total ban on Mosquitos for over a decade.
Let’s be honest: if somebody invented a device which only affected older people by emitting a high pitched and painful sonic wave to prevent them from just being in certain places, there’s not a chance it would be legal. The uproar would be enormous!
Well, I say it’s time to afford young people the same respect, and cause an uproar about this. The Mosquito Device project has failed to tackle anti-social behaviour in any meaningful way given that it simply moves the issue to another area instead of addressing it properly, and furthermore is an affront to the notion of young people’s rights.
The successes we’ve seen such as a total ban on the use of Mosquito Devices in ScotRail stations, secured by the Scottish Youth Parliament in 2017, have been encouraging, but it’s not enough – we can’t let the momentum behind this campaign fall again until we make these devices illegal.
My advice is to get angry, and get active! Write to your MSP asking whether they support a ban on these devices, and what they’re going to do about it. Make noise on social media – follow @BanDevices and make your support for the campaign clear. The louder we are, the harder it will be to ignore us.
On that, I am keen to work with any individual or organisation who has a shared interest in ending the use of Mosquitos. I’m looking to speak to interested groups, especially those who have experience of being affected by Mosquito devices, to gather evidence on the effect they have, and the strength of feeling young people hold on their use. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the Twitter account @BanDevices (DMs are open).
It’s time to make Mosquito Devices illegal once and for all. Let’s do it.
About our blogger
Since 2017 Jack has been an MSYP representing Eastwood, and was previously the campaign lead for the Scottish Youth Parliament’s rights campaign which saw the government commit to UNCRC incorporation. If you want to hear more from him please get in touch through the details noted above.