Going back to school means packing up your child’s backpack with school supplies, lunch, textbooks and much more, and you’ll often see even small children carrying their oversized bags onto the school bus.
The average backpack weight for a high schooler clocks in at an impressive 18.4 pounds, which is a lot of pressure on growing bodies, so what are the risks of carrying this kind of load, and how can you make backpacks safer?
Know your child’s limit
The American Academy of Pediatrics carried out a study into kid’s backpacks, finding that at the high end, they could weigh up to 30 pounds on a busy day or when returning to school. It’s important to know how much your child can safely carry, which the AAP state should be between 10 and 20% of a child’s weight. For example, a 12-year old girl on the 50th percentile for weight will be around 92 pounds, so her backpack should be kept under 18 pounds. However, if your child still finds this uncomfortable, you should look at ways to lighten the load.
Spot the signs of an oversized load
Children will often insist that they’re fine to carry a huge backpack, stubbornly refusing to leave things at home. They may make grunts or moans when taking the backpack off or lifting it on, or they may complain of numbness in their shoulders or arms. If you spot red marks on their shoulders, then that’s a sure sign that the backpack is too bulky for them.
When they walk with the backpack, you might see them leaning forward or holding on to the straps, this is often a sign that they’re trying to shift the weight and that their backpack is too heavy.
Choose the right backpack
The right backpack will make all the difference to your child’s comfort levels. Unfortunately, kid’s will often want to pick out a cute but impractical backpack that puts pressure on all the wrong places.
When you’re back to school shopping, steer them towards sporting goods stores rather than places that focus on fashion. You should try to choose a backpack that’s narrower that the child from the back and hangs no more than a couple of inches below their waist. If they have their heart set on a certain style, check whether other styles are available, and the store’s website will usually have more options.
Padding in the straps and on the back can make carrying much more comfortable and look for compression straps which hold the heavy load in place, so it doesn’t shift around. Waist straps can also help with carrying. Carrying things from your shoulders isn’t ideal, as it’s not how the body is designed, and waist straps move some of the weight onto the hips.
Fit the backpack properly
Carrying and fitting a backpack properly is key to your child’s comfort and avoiding injury. Firstly, their posture is important, if they slouch then this will put pressure on their neck, upper back, shoulders and even hips.
Young people are vulnerable to a range of injuries if carrying heavy backpacks for long periods of time. That’s why it’s important for parents to choose a backpack that’s suitable for their size, and to fit it properly.