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Safety Nugget Week of August 29 - School Backpacks< Back to Blog

Sep 08, 2016
By: G. Yepsen
Categories: Safety

It is time for kids to go back to school so a few thoughts on safety for kids.

When my kids were at home, I was always surprised at the weight of their school backpacks.  More recently, my wife’s goddaughter lived with us for 2 years while she finished a masters in occupational therapy.  The weight of her backpack was amazingly high!  Here are some guidelines from the National Safety Council on using backpacks.

Backpack Safety

When you move your child's backpack after he or she drops it at the door, does it feel like it contains 40 pounds of rocks? Maybe you've noticed your child struggling to put it on, bending forward while carrying it, or complaining of tingling or numbness.

If you've been concerned about the effects that extra weight might have on your child's still-growing body, your instincts are correct.

Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture.  There are things you can do to help prevent injury. While it's common these days to see children carrying as much as a quarter of their body weight, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends a backpack weigh no more than 10 percent of a child's weight.

When selecting a backpack, look for:

  • An ergonomic design 
  • The correct size: never wider or longer than your child's torso and never hanging more than 4 inches below the waist
  • Padded back and shoulder straps
  • Hip and chest belts to help transfer some of the weight to the hips and torso
  • Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight
  • Compression straps on the sides or bottom to stabilize the contents
  • Reflective material

Remember: A roomy backpack may seem like a good idea, but the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it. Make sure your child uses both straps when carrying the backpack. Using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems.

Help your child determine what is absolutely necessary to carry. If it's not essential, leave it at home.

What About Backpacks on Wheels?

They are so common these days, they're almost cool. But, the ACA is not giving them a strong endorsement.  Rolling backpacks should be used "cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack," the ACA website reads. The reason? They clutter school corridors, replacing a potential back injury hazard with a tripping hazard.

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