August 15th, 2018
ACPeds Parent Talk

Keeping parents up to date on the latest news in child and teen health
Back to School Tips for a Healthy School Year (Part 1): Backpack Safety

While it may seem that something as simple as a backpack couldn't possibly have too much bearing on the health of a child, research shows otherwise. About 5,000 children visit emergency rooms each year because of backpack-related injuries, and at least 14,000 kids are treated for them.

Heavy backpacks can cause problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture. Although it’s recommended that backpacks should weigh no more than 10% of a child's weight , the average backpack weighs in at 20% of his or her weight.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent our kids from experiencing pain or discomfort from backpacks--something most kids will wear to school every day for the entire 9-month school year.

  1. Kids and teens should always use both straps when carrying a backpack because using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems.
  2. Look for a backpack with padded shoulder straps and a padded back to protect the back from hard textbooks with sharp edges that can sometimes jut out from the inside and stick a child’s back.
  3. A backpack should never be wider or longer than your child's torso and never hang more than 4 inches below the waist
  4. Avoid “Cinch” or drawstring bags, rolling backpacks, leather bags, and messenger bags.
  5. For younger children, hip and chest belts can help transfer some of the weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.
  6. Backpacks with compression straps on the sides or bottom help stabilize the contents.
  7. For kids that have to walk to school or wait for the bus in the early morning before the sun comes out, a backpack with reflective material will help ensure that your child is seen by drivers.

Making sure your child's backpack follows these criteria is a simple action you can take to help prevent your child from experiencing back pain or suffering injuries.
Additional backpack tips:

  • Attach a luggage tag to your child’s backpack with a checklist. This is especially helpful for younger kids who tend to be more forgetful when it comes to remembering to pack their homework, pencils, paper, and other school supplies.

  • Schedule a regular time to do a backpack check-in either once a month or twice a semester. Messy backpacks can hinder a child’s performance in school because it’s easier to forget items and lose homework when her backpack is full of papers and items that should have been thrown out. Also, a junky backpack can quickly become an unnecessarily heavy backpack so periodically checking in with your kid to make sure his backpack is neat and tidy will help your child establish organizational skills that will last throughout adulthood.
Remember, a child wears a backpack everyday for almost an entire year. Taking the simple precautions described above will help your child in the long run .

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