More than 79 million students in the United States carry a backpack and an estimated 55 percent of them are carrying a backpack that is too heavy (American Occupational Therapy Association). That’s more than 43 million students who may be causing major issues to their bodies with heavy books, electronic devices, and other school supplies.
Wearing a backpack incorrectly can also contribute to health problems including pain in the back, neck, and shoulders, or the development of poor posture. Proper wear can help prevent these very things.
Follow these 7 backpack safety tips to avoid over packing this school year.
- Start with a lightweight backpack.
Make sure the backpack is made of a lightweight but durable material.
- Keep the shoulder straps are wide and padded.
Wide, padded straps provide support. Your child’s straps should be snug, but not so tight that they cause discomfort.
- The back of the pack should also be padded.
Padding that sits against your child’s back will provide additional support and prevent pain.
- Look for a waist strap.
A waist strap holds the contents closer to your child’s back, which can help him or her maintain balance. Make sure they secure it!
- Multiple compartments are a plus.
If your child’s backpack has multiple compartments, it will be easier to evenly distribute the weight of the items inside. The heaviest items should be packed low and toward the center of the bag.
- Wear both straps at all times.
Make sure your child is always wearing both straps. Wearing both straps helps distribute the weight evenly and prevents your child from leaning to one side, which can cause pain in the neck, back, or shoulders.
- Do not overload!
Your child’s backpack should weight no more than 15 percent of his or her total body weight. Anything more can force children to slouch or hunch to compensate for the extra weight. Remove any items that are unnecessary, and encourage your children to carry heavier items in their arms, if possible.
If your child complains of back pain, be sure to take a look at what is in his or her backpack. Encourage your child to carry his or her backpack according to the steps above. Backpacks with wheels are also an option for children experiencing discomfort. If pain should persist, it is recommended you follow up with your child’s doctor.