We tend to think that backpacks are better for children’s postures than satchels carried over one shoulder, but it’s not always the case.
The next time you see your children overstuffing their backpacks, tell them to go lighter.
Keep an eye
Backpacks can mean backaches for schoolchildren, but an orthopaedic surgeon has advice for parents and kids about how to keep soreness at bay.
“Parents should inspect their child’s backpack from time to time,” said Dr Joshua Hyman of New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City.
Kids “often carry much more than they should, with extra shoes, toys, electronic devices and other unnecessary items,” he explained in a hospital news release.
Pack (and choose) wisely
Hyman suggests that before sending kids off to school, parents should follow these backpack safety tips:
1. Be a weight-watcher
According to a previous Health24, article, a child’s backpack should not be more than 10% of their body weight. That means the bag of a child of 50kg should weigh no more than 5kg
2. Lighten the load
If you feel that your child is weighed down by too many textbooks, talk to their teacher about whether any can be left at school. If not, a backpack on wheels may be an option.
3. Two straps are better than one
Encourage your child to wear the straps over both shoulders – not over one shoulder – so the weight of the bag is distributed evenly.
4. Size matters
Get a correctly sized backpack that’s not wider or longer than your child’s torso, and make sure it doesn’t hang more than 10cm below your kid’s waist. A low-hanging backpack could force your child to lean forward while walking.
5. The more padding the better
Look for a backpack with straps that are wide and padded to prevent them from digging into the child’s shoulders. Also, look for one with a padded back. This can reduce the risk that your child will be hurt by sharp objects inside the backpack.
6. Watch for signs of trouble
Be on the lookout for pain, posture changes, tingling or red marks due to backpack use. If your child’s pain is persistent, talk to your paediatrician.
7. Be the posture police
Urge your child to walk and sit up straight, with shoulders drawn back. This will create stronger muscles and less room for back problems in the future.