Backpack Safety: Are Your Kids Carrying Too Much?

Posted by Safeco September 1, 2014
September is Backpack Safety Month.

There’s always a mix of excitement and anxiety in the air as kids start heading back to school, but, these days, many students constantly feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. And it has nothing to do with worrying about making friends or remembering locker combinations.

No, that weight is real, and it’s with them every day, right there in their backpacks.

Tens of millions of kids wear backpacks every day, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. Each year, thousands of injuries occur as a result of overloading and improper fit.

Backpack Safety Awareness Month, in September each year, is aimed at preventing those injuries. So follow these tips from the American Chiropractic Association to help ensure your young student isn’t weighed down:

  • The 10 percent rule: It’s best if kids’ backpacks weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. The heavier the pack is, the more likely they will bend forward while carrying it, which isn’t good for their backs.
  • Get the right fit: The pack shouldn’t hang too low — never more than four inches below the waistline. A proper fit decreases the stress on the back and shoulders.
  • Two is better than one: Carrying a backpack by one strap shifts all the weight to one side and can lead to neck or muscle spasms. Be sure both straps are always in use, and that they’re also wide and well-padded. When a pack is comfortable to carry, kids are more likely to use it correctly.
  • Bigger might not be better: The more room in the backpack, the more kids will stuff into it. So find a pack that’s an appropriate size — not too big, and not too small.
  • Pack it well: You can distribute the weight more easily in a backpack that has individualized compartments. Be mindful of the area that will be against your child’s back, and avoid putting pointy or bulky objects there.
  • Ask for help: If you’re not able to get your child’s backpack down to a manageable weight, talk to his or her teacher, or an administrator at the school. Perhaps they can leave the heavier books at school and bring home workbooks or handouts instead.

School can be tough enough without having to lug around a 30-pound pack. So make sure the only heavy lifting your students need to do is with their minds.

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