Oh, wait. No, they aren’t.
But, if you’ve read the headlines lately, you may have been alarmed by the “news” that young people are growing horns at the back of their heads due to prolonged use of their iPhones. The nearly constant hunched over, forward head posture of teens, according to several sources, was causing horn-like structures to grow on the backs of their heads. Terrifying image, right?
The scary headline is partially based on facts. According to Time.com, “In 2016, University of the Sunshine Coast professors David Shahar and Mark Sayers found that, out of 218 people ages 18 to 30, about 40% had a bone growth near the base of the skull called an “enlarged external occipital protuberance,” or EEOP. They built on that in the 2018 study by examining X-rays from 1,200 people, ages 18-86. In that study, a third of the X-rays showed growths. People ages 18 to 30 were the most likely to have an EEOP, which surprised the researchers, who write in the study that they’d expected older adults to have the highest risk.”
But the study NEVER assed actual phone use by individuals and the conclusion of the growths being caused by phones was just a hypothesis the researchers came up with on their own. So, yes, people of all ages develop these bone spurs. But, no one actually studied phone use and linked them directly.
Also, calling the growths “horns” is a huge overstatement. According to Time.com, “The growths in the latest study were between 10 and 30 millimeters, or less than half an inch to just over an inch, in length—certainly noticeable, but likely less dramatic than the mental image inspired by the headlines.
In addition, skull growths of this nature, albeit typically smaller ones, have been spotted plenty of times before. They’re known to be most common in men, and are typically seen among the elderly, but young people have them, too. A 2017 paper published in the BMJ notes that an occipital growth is normal, though sometimes painful, and “often presents in late adolescence due to the growth spurts.” Bone spurs are a natural occurrence and can also pop up all over the body, literally from head to toe.
To be clear, our kids are not growing horns from iPhones. Bone spurs happen to people of all ages, for different reasons. But, all the gadgets and technology we use for hours on end does cause bad posture. Project B3 urges you to take “tech breaks.” Stand up and stretch your neck and back, walk around and get plenty of exercise. Our bodies were not made to be staring down, sitting down and hunched over a screen all day.