Are humans growing tiny 'horns' due to cellphone use?

Recent reports from mainstream media outlets—including this coverage from the BBC—have highlighted a possible side effect of our growing dependence on smartphones: imaging results show that the human skeleton may be growing tiny “horn”-like bone spurs.

The New York Post and others picked up the news, likely ensuring that watercooler talk in many offices was focused on the topic of cellphone use. But a new commentary published in Forbes suggests that this may be a whole lot of concern over a whole lot of nothing.

“Will your kid's ‘evil’ cellphone give him ‘horns’? No,” author Kristina Killgrove, an experienced archaeologist, wrote. “But if your neck hurts after hours of looking down at it, you might want to lie down on a pillow for a bit.”

The research that started this story, a study published in Nature: Scientific Reports by David Shaher and Mark G. L. Sayers, “makes complete sense to bioarchaeologists and palaeoanthropologists, scientists who work with ancient human bones,” Killgrove explained. But journalists reporting on the supposed “horns”? It’s a lot of information to take in, leading to less-than-stellar coverage in some instances.

Killgrove also detailed some issues she sees with the work of Shaher and Sayers. It ignores important prior research, for instance, and “contains multiple errors.”