Little Backs, Big Backpacks – How to Keep Your Children Safe This School Year

Are you looking into buying your child or teenager a new backpack for the holidays this year?

Know before you buy.

Backpack safety is imperative for developing children, yet many parents don’t know how heavy is too heavy.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, young children are struggling with back pain significantly more than previous generations. ACA recommends that your child’s backpack weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight and never hang more than four inches below their waistline, however, statistics show that only 4 percent of parents actually weigh their child’s backpack.

Excessive backpack weight can cause a myriad of painful issues in children and adults which can potentially lead to a lifetime of health problems. If a backpack is overloaded, it can create stress on the spine while wearing a backpack improperly over one shoulder can cause permanent misalignment of the spine, muscle fatigue and a lowered state of health.

Avoid backpack-related pain, and check out our 4 steps to safe backpack use:

Choose Right

Choosing the correct size backpack is an important step to safe backpack use. Don’t pick one that is too big for your child — It should never be longer than the length of their back. 

Pack Right, Pack Light

The maximum weight of a loaded backpack should not exceed 15 percent of your child’s body weight, so don’t overpack. This means for a 100 pound child, the backpack should weigh no more than 15 pounds and for an 80 pound child, the backpack should weigh no more than 12 pounds, and so on.

Backpacks alone can weigh anywhere from 2-4 pounds, whereas textbooks can weigh over 2 pounds each. With these measurements, you can see how quickly a backpack can surpass the desired safety requirements.

Without weighing the backpack yourself, an easy way to check if it bears too much weight is to see if your child is forced to bend forward while they carry it. If they are, then it is overloaded.

A great rule of thumb is to only carry what’s needed. For example, your child doesn’t need to be carrying around textbooks from last week’s exam, overdue library books, old papers, or uneaten snacks. If they don’t need it, they should rid of it, or at the very least, store it somewhere else so they aren’t transporting it on their shoulders throughout the day. 

Lift right

To lift the backpack correctly:

  • Face the pack.
  • Bend at the knees.
  • Use both hands to lift the pack, lifting with your legs.
  • Apply shoulder straps one at a time.
  • Avoid slinging the backpack onto one shoulder. 

Wear right

To wear the backpack correctly:

  • Use both shoulder straps, pulling snug, but not too tight.
  • If there is a waist strap, use it. It will distribute the weight better.
  • Don’t let the pack hang low on your back.

Most importantly, don’t ignore persistent pain. If your child frequently complains of pain in the back or neck or if one arm or leg hurts more than the other, this is not normal and should be checked out.

Regular adjustments can help your child to deal with the stresses of a heavy backpack, plus whatever else they have to face. Afterward, they will feel 10x better and healthier.