Simple Tips and Guidelines for Backpack Safety

Published : 11/07/2019

If you ask a child what is his or her favourite thing, their answer is most likely to be TOYS. Some kids will say it's candies, yet others may even reply with clothes and dresses, and the list can go on. However, when it comes to their schooling, there’s no question that the thing they are most likely to be attached to is their backpack.

The thing about children’s backpacks is that they can be designed to cater to kids’ tastes such as their favourite cartoon characters or TV show, and this adds to the charm of backpacks among children. Backpacks, and generally bags for that matter, come in different sizes, materials, colours, themes and designs. The choice of theme and design is where kids get to express their personality and interests to their friends and schoolmates.

However, aside from the likeability of the design and theme, there is something MORE IMPORTANT that parents need to consider when choosing and using backpacks for their children. And yes, you guessed it rightly – it’s their SAFETY.

The Risk Factors

Children who use backpacks often are at risk of back injuries. That’s why you may have observed that kids would sometimes complain of back pain when going home after school. Well, of course you need to consider other factors such as their posture when sitting and the physical activities they did in school. Be that as it may, if it’s because of their backpacks, then you may have to do something about it.

Other than back pain, improper use of backpacks can also cause shoulder pain and neck pain. So who are the kids with backpacks that may likely experience back pain, body aches, and maybe even injuries (that we hope not)?

  • Kids who carry more than 10% of their body weight in their packs. When a heavy backpack is inappropriately placed on the shoulders, the weight can pull the child backward. To compensate the force, the child will bend forward at the hips and arch the spine. This can make the spine compress abnormally which may cause shoulder, neck, and back pain.
  • Kids who wear a heavy backpack on just one shoulder. They may lean to one side to counter the extra weight. Such position may cause lower and upper back pain, and strain their shoulders and neck.
  • Younger kids or children with smaller bodies. Because they carry loads that are heavier in proportion to their body weight, kids with lesser built are especially at risk for backpack-related injuries. They may even develop poor posture as they grow up.

Making the Backpack Safe for Your Child

Given the risks of backpacks for kids, does that mean backpacks are a big NO-NO for you as a parent? Of course not! Children can still have a great time bringing along their awesome backpacks as long as they practice safe backpack use. However, parents should first think about what kinds of backpacks and bags are appropriate for children’s use. Consider these tips when shopping for bags and backpacks:

  • Choose a lightweight bag, one that will not add more weight to your child's load. The fabric and material which the bag is made of contribute to this aspect. If you need to ask more questions, do research, or consult with the customer support staff, then do so.
  • Prefer the ones with wide and padded shoulder straps. Straps that are too slim can dig into shoulders’ skin and muscle and may cause pain.
  • Backpacks with pads on the back are great because they protect your child’s back from hard objects inside the bag, and it gives increased comfort to the wearer.
  • Bags with multiple compartments are practical since they help distribute the load throughout.

Alright, so you have bought your child’s backpack. What should you do now to make sure he or she uses it as safely as possible?

  • Lighten the load as much as possible. Remember when we said that it is not advisable for children to carry more than 10% of their body weight? For example, if your child weighs 36kg, he or she should not carry a load weighing 3.6 kg. Use a scale if necessary.
  • Advice your child to practice proper lifting and carrying. If they’re carrying a backpack, make sure they carry it using both shoulder straps. When lifting the bag, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands – this is to lessen the strain on their backs.
  • Use all of the bag’s compartments and put the heavier items, such as books and notebooks, closest to the center of the back. The weight should always be placed at the center of gravity to balance the load on your child's body parts that carry the pack.

We hope that you gained some insights on these tips and guidelines for the safe use of backpacks. In case your child is having consistent pain on the back, shoulder, or neck, it would be best if you have him or her checked by your family doctor. For more pointers on backpack safety, you may want to watch the video below.

Downshen, S. MD. "Backpack Safety." KidsHealth from Nemours
"Backpack Safety: It's Time to Lighten the Load on Our Kids." National Safety Council

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