Junk science

That Story About Kids Growing Horns Because of Smartphones Is Fake News

Researchers made no effort to link the two.


Here was the headline on a recent Washington Post story: "Horns are growing on young people's skulls. Phone use is to blame, research suggests."

It's a sensational claim. It's also misleading. Contrary to what was reported, the research does not show a link between increased smartphone usage and horn-like appendages on kids' skulls.

From the Post:

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls—bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.

In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what's happening on the miniature screens.

Not so fast, as Techdirt points out:

The problem is that while the research did find that human skeletons are shifting and changing in the modern era due to postural and other behaviors, they weren't able to prove that cellphones were the culprit. There's a wide variety of modern human behaviors that could influence skeletal shifts, from watching television and reading books to terrible posture resulting from a lack of meaningful exercise. Only a few reporters could be bothered to note that at no point did the researchers directly, actually link the "horns" to cellphone use.

I perused the studies in question. At most, researchers offered educated guesses that new technology has something to do with the skull horns. The underlying research, however, does not prove any such connection. It doesn't even attempt to prove it.

Related: "From Momo to Hate Crimes, Skittles Parties, and Sex Trafficking, Fake News Is Clearly a Problem."

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  1. I still choose to believe smartphones are making teens horny.

    1. We know that smartphones turn kid’s nude selfies into child pornography…

    2. Smartphones aren’t turning teens horny because teens are already horny. EVERYTHING turns them horny

  2. I figured this was WND style news. Teens growing horns sign of SATAN or some bullshit.

    1. However, labeling himself-herself-itself as “Tu­lpa AKA “Mr. Satan”” causes “Tu­lpa AKA “Mr. Satan”” no embarrassment at all.

      Here is Evil as personified by “Tu­lpa AKA “Mr. Satan”” on these very comment pages, as a warning to all of us: The essence of Evil can be expressed as, I should be admired as being MEEEE because I am MEEEE!!! I need not do any useful work, I need to invent anything, I need not contribute any humor or information or wisdom to the world (let alone any LOVE or respect for others), I need merely dispense my scorn and disdain and superiority over all others, and then I may walk away, knowing fully well in my own self-admiring mind, that I have EARNED the admiration of all others, although they may selfishly deprive me of said admiration from time to time… I deserve to be admired and worshiped by all and sundry, not because of what I do or say or accomplish… But because I am MEEEE!!! That alone should be enough, dammit!!!

    2. Your bigotry failed you again.

  3. Robby, I don’t think this really needed anything beyond pointing out the WaPo’s desperation for clicks.

    1. Kudos to Soave for this article. It’s yet another example of WaPo’s fake news, and not doing the job it claims to do. And Soave for doing it.

  4. Come on, Robby, most of it probably from smart phones. Who reads books anymore or watches tv? Those activities are done on phones these days.

  5. if listening to ozzy didn’t do it smartphones won’t either

    1. Speak for yourself.
      [bites a bat’s head off]

      1. Did you at least season the bat beforehand?

  6. No shit. That is all.

  7. And what was the source of this fake news? Twitter? Facebook? Google? Netflix? Alex Jones? Trump? The Russians?

    No. The Washington Post, the bastion of truth and credibility, that watchdog of the people, that Gatekeeper of objectivity, that excluder of falsehood, that courageous publisher of the Pentagon Papers, that Light which prevents Democracy from Dying in the Darkness! This is the type of journalism we need.

    1. I only read the national enquirer. It seems to have the most reasonable take on things.

      1. I prefer The Onion.

        1. Today, everything is The Onion. There is no difference.

    2. Not your grandfather’s WaPo.

  8. Huh so Robby, are you saying we shouldn’t trust ENB’s reporting? Is that just the morning links or is Robert Kraft really a sex trafficker?

    1. If posing a link is “reporting”.
      Robert Kraft is one of the lizard people.

  9. Fake news? The Hell you say.

  10. omg … but yes thank god there is no kid with the horns and social media you have given a new glittering fake story.. ha ha

  11. Another hint: smart phones are not.

  12. Oh Jesus I saw this story today in my local rag and I was going to lambaste the shit out of it in the comments but they block comments on wire stories.

  13. “At most, researchers offered educated guesses ”

    Scientists call this an hypothesis, an idea that embodies the first step on the long and exciting road to scientific knowledge.

  14. Funny

    Enthesophytes. Those are spurs that occur in a place where muscle attaches to bone. These are very common and occur in multiple locations. They are harmless and are hardly worthy of mention. There are a few exceptions.

    If you track this back it is in an obscure journal of anatomy.

    “This study is the first to report and quantify the prevalence of EEOP within apparently healthy, asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic young adults. Forty-one percent of the total population in this study presented with EEOP. Further- more, 10% of the participants in this study displayed an EEOP greater than 20 mm in length.”

    Fascinating. I am a medical nerd and can’t even pretend to be interested.

  15. Scientific literacy is pretty awful all over the place.
    It really ought to be required at the highschool level.

  16. “bone spurs”

    Where’s the Rev? Isn’t it time for him to say something about Trump?

    1. The sentient bowl of dictatorial gall bladders hates all rubes, yokels, and clingers.

  17. Oh no, not urban myths!

    The handwringing over this is so contrived. Reason acts like urban legends, old wives’ tales, and the like didn’t exist before. Surely the internet has on balance only greatly reduced the prevalence of stuff like this.

    The real FAKE NEWS problem is “media” and so-called “journalists” who are liars, propagandists and political operatives and domestic enemies of the Constitution.

    1. This seems more like lazy reporting than spreading urban myths.

      Surely the internet has on balance only greatly reduced the prevalence of stuff like this.

      I’m not so sure about that. The internet allows access to lots of information. It also allows people to find groups who believe the same crazy shit that they do.

      1. “This seems more like lazy reporting than spreading urban myths.”

        You are right. Honestly, when I typed this response, I was thinking more about the article that was linked right below this one, about “Momo” and other urban myths that were spread on social media.

  18. This is YOUR tribe, Robbie.

    Smartphone horns, pink meth, sex traffickers kidnapping kids at the shopping center, Republican segregationist senators from 1970s Mississippi and Georgia, Climate Change Is Killing Your Dog ,Cocaine Improves Negro Pistol Marksmanship Remember the Maine!, Fake But Accurate…

    No one spreads more mis-and dis- information, outright lies and fabrications than The Enemy of the People lyin’ ass FAKE NEWS, Journolist media. When you’re done rewriting the next single-sourced, citationless press release just do us all a favor and kill yourself.

    1. All this talk of suicide…is this a chat room for ancient Roman Senators?

    2. SIV: I laughed most heartily, thanks.

      1. I left out “grab its motherfucking leg”.

    3. Bowling Green Massacre. Never remember. Always forget.

  19. It’s true…..smart phones are turning everybody into hunchbacks !
    That’s why Samsung will be introducing, new for 2020….
    The Quasimodo S11 “Humpster” !!!!!!!

  20. The real FAKE NEWS problem is “media” and so-called “journalists” who are liars, propagandists and political operatives and domestic enemies of the Constitution.

    1. And you trying to pigeonhole the stupid story into some larger conspiracy against the politics you perfer is exactly the problem you’re complaining about.

  21. Jesus, I told my kid he probably has horns now and that cell phones were the devil. He doesn’t listen to me so it’s all good.

    1. OG…..If you want your kid to pay attention to you… Text him this message….. “HEY…..Put down that DAMN PHONE and LOOK at me while I’m talking to you, Mister..!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Uh, no one listens to you. They just like to vent their bile at you; in that sense you serve a purpose, keeping the bodily humors in balance.

  22. Given that the bonstructures where overwhelmeingly found in millenials, and the that demographic coincides with a watershed use of portable devices from a young age, those devices would seem to be the most likely candidate, would they not?

  23. This was worth printing online?? Really?

  24. I was born 1948 with a horn protrusion on the back of my skull.
    I didn’t really pay attention to it til the 1960s.
    By the 1980s I found out a lot of people did not have them.
    Uh, when did the smartphone come out? (Rhetorical question.)

    About the time Liza Alther’s Kinfolks came out, I found out it was called an Anatolian cranial bump usually associated with isolated strains from Germany, Turkey, Asia, Africa.

    So in recent years, people have increasingly noticed cranial bumps and smartphone use, and try to tie the latter to the former. Or since my perception of cranial bumps preceded smartphones it would be more obvious(ly stupid) to blame smartphone use on cranial bumps. There is probably more correlation between smartphone use and global warming.

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