Back to School: Backpack Basics

It’s that time of year when parents are giddy with glee. It’s back-to-school time!

I remember when back to school supplies consisted of a composition book and a pack of pencils. And who can forget, the annual ritual of saving grocery bags so we could cover our textbooks with them? I admit it, I’m officially old.

Today, back-to-school supplies and rituals sure have changed. Look inside any kid’s backpack today and you’re likely to find laptops and tablets and a charger for both. Yes, they still have to bring books too. You’ll also find binders, planners, gym clothes, shoes for cheerleading or cleats for soccer, their sweats for football, and even maybe musical instruments. Don’t forget the snacks and water bottles, lots of water bottles.

Backpacks are a popular and practical way for children and teenagers to carry schoolbooks and supplies. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry all the things kids will need through the school day and beyond. We also know that improper use of backpacks can lead to problems for children and teenagers including, back, neck and shoulder pain. Improper backpack use can also lead to posture problems. The following guidelines can help your family use backpacks safely.

Choosing the Right Backpack

The correct use of both of the wide, well-padded shoulder straps will help distribute the weight of the backpack. When choosing a backpack, look for one that is appropriate for the size of your child. In addition, look for some of the following features:

    • Wide, padded shoulder straps
    • Two shoulder straps
    • Padded back
    • Waist strap
    • Lightweight backpack
    • Rolling backpack

Injury Prevention

Preventing backpack injuries becomes easier when you know how. The simple tips below will help keep children and teenagers injury free.

    • Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their backpacks.
    • The correct use of both of the wide, well-padded shoulder straps will help distribute the weight of the backpack.
    • When choosing a backpack, look for one that is appropriate for the size of your child.
    • A crossbody bag can also be a good alternative for carrying books and supplies.
    • Tighten the straps to keep the load closer to the back.
    • Organize the items: pack heavier things low and towards the center.
    • Pack light, removing items if the backpack is too heavy. Carry only those items that are required for the day, and if possible, leave unnecessary books at home or school.

 

For more information about ergonomics and injury prevention for kids and teens, click on any of the links below:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Safe Kids

Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

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