The headlines started popping up everywhere late last week: that our teenagers are growing horns from looking down at their phones all the time. Understandably, this had a lot of parents freaking out; but, before you start checking the back of your kids’ heads every day for new horn growths, let’s sort through what we know and what we don’t.
All of these articles are citing the same study from a pair of researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Even though the global chatter on the topic is new, the research actually isn’t: it was published in February of last year.
First of all, we can dispense of the word “horn.” The researchers don’t use it once. Literally, they never once use the word “horn.” What they do say is that young people are showing more “external occipital protuberance[s],” e.g. small bone growths at the base of their skulls. They were between 10 and 30 millimeters long, which is a little less than half an inch to a little more than an inch. To be sure, that’s not nothing—but, if you’re picturing kids walking around with goat horns coming out of their heads, you’re probably going to be underwhelmed.
It is true that these bone growths were more prevalent among younger people studied, but you should know that the amount of tech use among research subjects was not looked at—so, there’s no proven link between phone use and these growths. The link between looking down at cell phones and these growths developing is simply a hypothesis offered by the researchers.
So, at least for now, we do NOT have any reason to think that our smartphones are giving us horns. Still, things like “tech neck” and “texting thumbs” show us that overuse of our smartphones can cause us pain.