Back To School Backpack Safety Tips

Q: As school is beginning soon we will be shopping for a new backpack. What tips do you have to be sure we select a backpack that will provide us with the features to help prevent an injury.

A: So glad you asked! Yes, we have lots of tips that we encourage you to be focused on.

Suggestions for loading a pack:

1. A child’s backpack should be no more than 15 percent of his or her body weight. For example if your child weighs 80 pounds, they should not carry more than 12.5 pounds.

2. Load the heaviest items up against the child’s back.

3. If a backpack is too heavy on a regular basis then try a backpack with wheels if your child’s school will allow that.

Suggestions for proper pack-wearing techniques:

Distribute the weight evenly by using both straps over the shoulders. Do not wear the backpack over just one shoulder.

Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps.

Adjust the straps so that the pack fits snugly against the child’s back.

Place the top of the backpack about 2 inches below the shoulder blades and the bottom of the pack should rest at or just below the waistline.

School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size for your child’s dimensions.

Q: How do I select the correct size backpack for my child?

A: Choose a backpack for your child carefully. A properly fitted backpack is worn over the strongest mid-back muscles. Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Q: As the school year goes on, the backpack seems to get heavier. How can I help prevent that?

A: Select a day of the week and make it a habit to check the contents of the backpack. Unload the backpack completely and review the contents with your child. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back. Keep the load at 10-15 percent or less of the child’s bodyweight. Some students have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school. Ask the teacher if some material can be viewed online.

Final tip: Contact your child’s school. Suggest to the school nurse or wellness team that you’d like to see a backpack safety seminar. Have each child weigh their backpack and then get the child’s body weight. See if the 15 percent guideline is being followed. I bet there will be some surprises about how heavy the backpacks truly are.