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Is Technology Turning Us Into Horned Monsters? Not Exactly

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now a public service announcement. Contrary to what you may have heard on social media, the dangers of smartphone use do not include growing horns.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now, some listeners may be completely baffled that we are saying this, but others, you will have seen the Photoshopped images on social media - the tech-addicted people with, yes, horns. And you may have heard the TV anchors chatter.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Pay attention. Sustained bad posture over a tiny screen could lead to one of these.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: People are growing horns on their skulls.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: New research out of Australia suggests people are developing horn-like spikes at the back of their skulls - come on - as seen in these X-rays. And you know it's true because we're showing it on television.

SHAPIRO: All of this inspired by an Australian study published last year in scientific reports. News outlets picked it up this week. And the study says changes in posture, like constantly looking down at your phone screen, may be linked to bone spurs that form at the back of the skull.

KELLY: Now, this also got the attention of people who study the evolution of human bones, like paleoanthropologist John Hawks. He took a closer look at the study.

JOHN HAWKS: Actually, the data didn't back it up. When I looked at the details of this study, I thought, oh, wait. The results of the reporting don't match the text that they've written. It's just - it's a total mess.

SHAPIRO: There was also no control group, and the people studied already had signs of neck problems, so Hawks says this study does not prove cause and effect.

KELLY: OK, so maybe our phones aren't giving us horns yet, but anxiety about how tech is changing our lives, that is real. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.