As parents we have the responsibility of doing what we believe is best for our children. This means protecting them from harm and teaching them the things that they will need to know in order to grow and develop into well-adjusted adults. Of all the things that we as parents have to teach our children, backpack safety is probably not one of the things that we over-emphasize (if we remember to mention it at all). Although it is safe to say that backpack safety need not be a lengthy and often repeated lesson, it is something worth researching. This is primarily because more and more health problems in children are emerging that are being blamed on improper backpack safety techniques.
The average weight that a child carries in their backpack can range anywhere from twenty to forty pounds depending on the child’s age and grade level. In many cases that amount of weight is more than half of the child’s total body weight. You can imagine the kind of neck, back and shoulder strain that can result from carrying around that kind of weight all day long. However, with the proper backpack safety knowledge you can encourage your children to make changes and to develop habits that will allow them to be able to prevent the discomfort and pain that is possible with improper backpack wearing.
Backpack safety begins when you go to the store to pick out your child’s backpack. Although your children will want what is trendy and popular, as a parent you should be influencing them to choose a backpack that will provide them with proper support. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics these are the features that you should be looking for when choosing which backpack to buy:
Lightweight – a lightweight backpack isn’t going to add to the weight that you are trying to minimize. Canvas is usually a good material to go with. Materials like leather are going to weigh much more.
Wide and padded shoulder straps – a backpack with wide and padded shoulder straps does not dig into the shoulders when the weight is increased. Instead wide shoulder straps help to more evenly distribute weight. A padded back is also an excellent thing to look for.
Waist belt – waist belts on backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly across the body.
After choosing the right backpack for your child you must encourage your child to use the backpack properly. For example, great shoulder straps and back padding do nothing to increase comfort of the backpack if it is simply thrown over one shoulder. Here are a few more tips to remind your children about when they are using their backpacks at school:
Carry as little as possible – if your child can minimize the weight that they are carrying by storing some of their books in a locker or by regularly cleaning out their backpack, encourage them to do so.
Encourage your child to plan ahead and only take and bring home the books that will be needed for school work that day. It does no good to carry a book to and from school when it is not even being used.
Have your child position the heaviest items in their backpack close to their back. This promotes better balance and therefore better weight distribution.
Adjust the straps – adjust the straps on your child’s backpack so that they fit snugly against the body but still allow for the free movement of the arms. The backpack should be centered on the back and about two inches above the child’s waist. If your backpack has a waist belt encourage your children to use it.