Backpack Safety

How to Choose and Use the Perfect Backpack...

As we get prepared for another school year, the first thing we hunt down is a backpack. We all know that the backpack is essential from pre-school through high school to hold lunch, books, and other essential school gear. Unfortunately, as your child gets older, the load in the backpack gets heavier. Recent studies have shown that kids get back pain from their backpacks. With homework, sports equipment, and other items, what should parents to do prevent this back pain?

1. Lighten the Load

Kids should not carry backpacks weighing more than 20% of their body weight. That's a hard rule to follow when they are loaded down with textbooks and folders. Some kids carry everything back and forth each day whether they need it or not. Purge the backpack of unessary items.

If your child's backpack is too heavy, make sure they are only carrying what they need for that day. If they can't get away from carrying everything, purchase a rolling backpack. Do be careful because these are often very heavy and at some point they will have to lift it.

If there are some textbooks that are always coming home, ask if you can get a second set to keep at home so your child doesn't have to transport these to and from school each day. If not, look into purchasing a used copy. It's totally worth it.

2. Shoulder Straps

Make sure the shoulder straps are wide and padded and that there is a waist belt. The straps and belt help spread the load so the child's upper back isn't carrying all the weight.

If you can find one with additional padding on the backpack itself, that's even better because it makes it more comfortable and safer for your child.

3. Proper Posture

The best thing your child can do is to wear the backpack on both shoulders. Some kids think it's cool to wear it on one shoulder but this really puts their body in a tilted position, especially with heavy backpacks. That can seriously add to their back pain.

Place heavier books closest to the back, and be sure to bend at the knees when picking up the backpack.

4. Other Things Parents can Do

Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack, like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.

Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child and look for any changes in your child's posture when he or she wears the backpack.

Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle. Do not ignore red marks on the shoulders if your child or teenager expresses discomfort.

Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day.

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