The Weirdest Trend of Our Time: Will Children Grow Horns From Smartphone Use?

When it comes to reversing signs of aging, dermal fillers are one of the top five cosmetic minimally invasive procedures people undergo each year. On the flip side, the future could lead to some very… interesting cosmetic developments. It may seem like a strange idea, but one Australian study suggests that smartphone use among children can lead to horn growth. The theory holds that excessive smartphone use is resulting in bone spur growths in the back of the skull, especially in the skeletons of children.

Researchers claim that these bone spurs were particularly prominent in young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 because of excessive smartphone use throughout their childhood. Because smartphone use demands that the neck tilts down to look at the screen, the researchers suggest that this unnatural alignment of the spine and shift in skull weight results in these bone spurs, some of which look like horns.

These bad habits align with other harmful patterns seen in growing youth. Issues like thumb sucking often demand that children get braces later in life — typically around the ages of eight to 14 — because their growing bodies are more malleable than adults in similar situations.

Luckily, sources like The New York Times have found that a large segment of the population growing horns is largely unsubstantiated. The researchers in question allegedly didn’t have a sample group and they even used X-rays from past research. Additionally, there are a number of other activities associated with similar posture, yet bone spurs have failed to develop in other individuals.

However, that isn’t to say that phones don’t encourage other bad habits, like inattentiveness or poor sleep habits. It’s, in part, thanks to concerns like these that the global health industry is worth an estimated $3.7 trillion. Bone spurs aside, countless parents are looking for ways to limit their children’s smartphone use. And it isn’t just because one in four cell phones are broken by clumsy children; now, more than ever, parents want to stop smartphone use among their children period.

In fact, parents have even begun to hire professionals to help them raise their children without the influence of smartphones. Thanks to a growing demand, the number of coaches have followed suit, springing up in affluent cities across the nation. These consultants and coaches are visiting community centers, churches, and the homes of families who want to engage in “screen-free parenting.”

For the wealthy parents, this advice and coaching is a necessity. For more frugal parents, however, the advice seems minimal at best.

“I say, ‘Just try to remember what you did as a kid,'” explains Chicago-based parenting coach Cara Pollard. But when parents finally remember, they’re successful. “And it’s so hard, and they’re very uncomfortable, but they just need to remember. They report back like it’s a miracle.”

Parents have even started signing no-phone pledges reminiscent of abstinence pledges from the 1990s. Some parents have signed claiming that they won’t allow their children to use a cell phone until eighth grade; more serious parents are limiting social media use until college.

But in an increasingly accessible world, children may feel left out of the loop. This is made even more strenuous should a parent have a busy work schedule and are unable to get into contact with their children when they need to. Some phones have a battery life of almost three days from a single charge, putting to rest any concerns over communication between parent and child.

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons for cell phone use in every family. But finding essential ways to limit smartphone use can result in healthier, happier kids. After all, Americans get around one billion colds each year, many of whom will get sick from the germs on their cell phone cases. Paired with the other countless life stressors we may experience that potentially damage our health, cell phones should be the last problem on our plate.

Smartphones are often a necessity, but limiting use is essential for many families. Here are some of the best tips to promote healthy smartphone habits in your family:

  • Start with a “dumb” phone: Remember when cell phones were only used for calling and texting? If you want to get into contact with your child but don’t want their cell phone to consume their life, starting them on a basic flip phone can help. That way, they won’t be consumed by social media and can still text their friends about a school project, too.
  • Set a good example: It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your child to get off their phone — if you’re using your phone all the time, they will follow your example. Setting the appropriate limits for yourself will encourage your child to use their phone minimally, as well.
  • Get active: Did you know that swimming is the fourth most popular activity in the United States? Getting active means that you won’t have time to look at your phone. Try going for a swim or spending quality family time together outdoors.
  • Establish guidelines and boundaries: Boundaries and guidelines are vital to limiting phone use throughout the day. For example, try establishing a rule that there should be no phones at the table or having blackout hours before bed.
  • Practice mindfulness: Meditating or engaging in a 60-minute acupuncture session can help lower stress and enable you to reflect on bad habits. If you notice that you’re absentmindedly picking up your phone in your downtime, promoting mindfulness can help you eliminate — or at least cut down on — these problematic patterns.

While your child won’t likely grow horns from too much smartphone use, trying out these healthy habits will help encourage a healthier, smartphone-free life.

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