You've probably seen the headlines about how your kids' smartphones are making them grow horns. Believe us, we were as horrified as you were at the possibility. But we're here to tell you not to panic—your kids' digital devices aren't likely to cause them to sprout any spikes.
The startling stories are based on a 2018 study by researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, who found that young adults in their late teens and early 30s are growing 'horns'—spike-shaped bone spurs—from the back of their skulls. The researchers hypothesized the spurs were caused by people repetitively contorting their necks downwards at their mobile gadgets, causing horn-like protrusions to grow to help the body compensate for the weight shift.
But don't rush to toss out all your electronics—as it turns out, there's no need to be concerned about your kid growing a 'phone bone.' After a closer look, it appears Forbes has debunked the study, which it says "has wildly spun out of control" and has some serious flaws.
According to Forbes senior science contributor Kristina Killgrove, the study ignores anthropological research over many decades, had issues with its methodology, and its results can be interpreted in many different ways. For example, males made up the majority of people with external occipital protuberance (EOP), the scientific term for these 'horns' that's defined as a bony projection in the back of the skull. Killgrove writes that the finding "makes complete sense to bioarchaeologists and palaeoanthropologists, scientists who work with ancient human bones, because a larger and rougher area on the back of the skull has been known for centuries to be associated more with males than with females, due to differences in overall average musculature." In other words, these bone growths aren't that unusual, and can be blamed on genetics or trauma to the area, or could be just because.
Killgrove's story does say that performing an unnatural movement for long periods of time—like looking downward—could theoretically cause underlying skeletal changes in kids, but the fact that this particular study looked at adults, not kids, adds to it dubiousness. "Will your kid's "evil" cellphone give him "horns"?" writes Killgrove. "No. But if your neck hurts after hours of looking down at it, you might want to lie down on a pillow for a bit."
Well, there you have it. But, even if screen time isn't causing frightening bone growth, parents might still worry about their kids spending too much time watching Baby Shark or clips from Frozen. Kids can't seem to get enough of screen time, and there are valid concerns that this could affect your kids' development or their behaviour.
So go ahead and let them play their games, just make sure it's in moderation.