Backpack Safety For Kids – Help Kids Stay Healthy

Kids are a blessing and it is important we do all we can to keep them safe and healthy. Backpacks have become a necessity in the lives of most kids and due to this, we must be well versed on backpack safety for kids. This is a topic I was always going to cover.backpacks hanging on hooks

There is a popular saying that “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Pondering about that statement I ask myself if most of the habits kids show these days were gotten from watching their elders.

Some kids wear their backpacks on just one side of their shoulders. Some of them hold the straps of their backpacks with their hand and don’t even bother wearing it on their back.

I know of a kid that stays close to me that uses a backpack with just one strap. This kid would always look cool and I would always wonder how does this kid always look like this. I happened to come across the dad and guess what, almost everything I noticed about the kid I also saw on the dad.

The haircut was the same, their way of dressing and even the backpack the dad carried. It was also a one-strapped backpack.

Now I am not here to judge anyone all I am saying is let us be careful of what we show our kids. In trying to be cool that kid might be hurting himself without even knowing it.

Have you ever noticed your child trying to struggle when putting on their backpacks? Have you maybe tried carrying their backpacks and noticed it was like they were packing books for the whole class?

These are signs that should tell you to take actions that can ensure your child’s health condition.

It is assumed that back pains are common on only adults but the trends these days tells us otherwise. It is becoming increasingly common for kids complaining about back or shoulder pain.

This trend is disturbing because kids are not supposed to be experiencing back pains. They are experiencing back pains much earlier than previous generations and studies has shown that one of the factors that might be contributing to this is heavy backpacks.

Occurrences Due to Carrying a Heavy/unfit Backpack

When we carry our packs our back and abdominal muscles which are the strongest muscles in our body helps us support the weight of the backpack. For this to be able to function efficiently we have to carry the right amount of weight.

Due to the heavyweight carried by a child, the child tends to hyperextend his or her back or lean the head and trunk forward to compensate for the weight of the pack.Kid carrying a heavy backpack This posture is not normal because it can stress the muscles in the neck and back which in turn increases the risk of injury and fatigue.

The curves in the middle and lower back can become distorted and this can cause irritation to the spine and the rib cage.

When a kid wears the backpack on just one shoulder, due to the weight been concentrated on just one side of the shoulder, it might result in the child leaning towards that one side in other to compensate for that heavyweight.

Carrying the backpack on just one shoulder may also cause upper back pain and strain in the shoulders and neck. When a child wears a heavy backpack, about 25 percent of their body weight can have balance problems and this can increase the risk of the child falling.

Also, they find it difficult to perform normal activities such as opening doors or climbing stairs.

There are some backpacks with narrow straps that dig into the shoulders. This can interfere with circulation and nerves. Also, these types of backpacks with narrow straps can lead to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.

These type of backpacks might be ok for young adults but I don’t think kids should wear backpacks with narrow straps especially heavy backpacks with narrow straps.

–>Click Here To Read The Proper Way To Wear A Backpack For Young Adults<–

Studies on Some Kids With Backpain

According to Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of ACA’s (American Chiropractic Association) Council on Occupational Health, the number of kids complaining about back, neck and shoulder pains are on the rise.

The first question he always asks his young patients is if they carry a backpack to school and almost always their answer is yes.

Also, according to Dr. Bautch, a study conducted in Italy showed that the average child carries a backpack that is equivalent to a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman.

The shocking part of this study showed that of the kids carrying heavy backpacks to school 60 percent of these kids experience back pain as a result.

The American Chiropractic Association also reported that the preliminary results of studies conducted in France reported that the longer a child wears a heavy backpack, the longer it takes for curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.

A lot of people are becoming aware of these and for that reason, some states have passed laws that would force schools to come up with ways in which the weight of the student’s school backpacks can be reduced.

Picking The Right Backpacks For Kids

Looking at backpack safety for kids, one of the vital things to consider is picking the right backpack for your kid. With backpacks coming in different shapes, colors and sizes we need to know how to pick the right fit for our kids so they can be comfortable and avoid future complications.

  • Choose a backpack with an ergonomic design
  • Choose a backpack with lightweight materials. Most preferable go for packs that are either made of vinyl or canvas materials. These are lighter than leather backpacks.
  • Go for a backpack with wide shoulder straps. The straps should be at least two inches wide and should not be too snugly around the shoulder or armpit.
  • Pick a backpack with a waist belt and a padded back. Do you know that a strap or a waist belt can take as much as 50-70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine and would also help equalize the strain on the bones, joints, and muscles? Also, a padded pack protects the back against sharp edges on objects inside the pack.
  • Always go for a backpack with multiple compartments and if making use of the compartments make sure you don’t make use of only one compartment. Making use of multiple compartments helps distribute the weight evenly.
  • Go for packs with the right fit. I encourage people that if you are getting a backpack for a kid make sure that kid goes with you so they can try out different sizes to know just the right fit for them. Make sure the top does not extend higher than the top of the shoulder of the kid wearing it and also the bottom should not go lower than the hip bone.Three girls wearing a backpack
  • Pick a backpack with compression straps on the sides or bottom to stabilize the contents in the pack

Please note that although rolling backpacks are an option to help reduce the load on the child’s back some schools might not allow their usage because they can clutter hallways and result in dangerous trips and falls. They are also very difficult to carry up the stairs.

Playing Your Part

What can you do as a parent or guardian or a caring person concerning the backpack safety of kids

  • Regularly weigh their backpacks to know how much they carry. The American Physical Therapy Association recommends that children carry backpacks of no more than 15 percent of their body weight. If a child weighs 50 pounds, their backpack should contain no more than 7.5 pounds. A child weighing 100 pounds should carry no more than 15 pounds on their back.
  • Check how they wear their backpacks. When lifting the packs let them use both legs and arms and bend at the knees. Also, watch how they put on their backpacks to see if it is a struggle. If it seems like they are struggling it might mean that their backpack is too heavy. Have them remove some items in their backpacks and if possible they should hold it on their arms to reduce the load on their back.
  • Inspect their packs and make sure pointy objects are packed away from the parts that rest on their backs.
  • Encourage your kids to always wear both shoulder straps. If our kids are to wear their backpacks on just one side of their shoulders we should encourage them to make sure they switch sides regularly. If they use the right side today they should make use of the left side the next day. This can help keep their spine in the right position and prevent gravitational pull on just one side of the shoulder. But it is best to make sure they wear both straps.A kid wearing a backpack the wrong way
  • Talk to the child’s teacher if they can leave the heavier books at school and bring home only the lighter materials.
  • You can check if the pack is too snugly by sliding your hand between the backpack and your child’s back.
  • Always encourage your kid to make use of their backpacks waist straps/chest straps. It is not there for show. It is meant to be used.Little Boy Wearing A Backpack With Chest strap
  • Encourage your child to make sure they clean their backpack out every night and repack it for the next day. By doing this they won’t carry a backpack with things that are not needed.
  • Consider buying a second set of textbooks for kids that are students to keep at home. By doing this they can leave their textbooks at school and only bring home things like handouts and a few other items.
  • Make sure you always encourage your kids to tell you if they feel any numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs. These sorts of symptoms may indicate poor backpack fit or too much load been carried.
  • If your kids are in school always inform them that they should try to stop regularly at their locker throughout the day to drop off or exchange heavier books. A child should never carry more than 15 percent of their weight.

How To Properly Wear A Backpack

  • Ensure your kids pack only what is needed for that day. If for any reason their pack is heavy, it should not be more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. Let them carry only what is necessary and let them make use of their lockers or desk frequently during the day.
  • The heavier objects should be placed close to the body and the light or the pointy objects should be away from the back. The heavier items are packed first so that they are placed closer to the body.

Kids wear backpacks on a regular basis and it is vital that we don’t overlook the backpack safety of kids.

If you or your child experience any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consider visiting a doctor of chiropractic (DC). DCs are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children.

In addition, DCs can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

Please note that the information contained on this Web page should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your doctor may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

40 comments on “Backpack Safety For Kids – Help Kids Stay Healthy

  1. This is something that people don’t take seriously and can cause a lot of problems if care is not taken, Kids even here in my country carry a lot of books which makes the bag to become overweight. I always try cautioning the kids but they always give me a usual reply that they don’t have a time table in their schools, it’s funny and I have always complained about this.

    Some months down the road, the kids postures are not the same anymore even without wearing the bag, I think this your post has given me some points in which I can give the SCHOOL AUTHORITY of these kids, this will help me and the society at large, thanks for this. I have also noticed a lot of kids try to copy their parent’s ways of doing things, even if it is stressful, they still do this and this has been affecting their health.

    1. Thanks Ibrahim for the comment its much appreciated. It is imperative that we caution kids on how to use a backpack the right way. A lot of these kids carry a lot of books to school which always makes me wonder if they don’t have timetables or do they actually make use of all those items in school? It’s truly troubling and this should be stopped at least reduced to a minimum level.

  2. This is a great article. A proper fitting backpack is so important. I know when I was a kid, I didn’t worry about it much, but as an adult, I definitely do! Some of the “cool” ways of wearing backpacks aren’t safe. They aren’t comfortable, either, so I’m not exactly sure why they’re the “cool” way! 

    I think having two sets of textbooks (one at school, one at home) is a great idea for a lot of reasons. As a teacher myself, kids are always trying to bring home as little as possible every day and they often forget the stuff they really need. Or they convince themselves that they can get by without the book, but then get stuck at home without. It can just really make things simple!

  3. This is a very informative article and I enjoyed reading it. Just from reading the title it brought back memories for me. It feels not that long ago I was one of those kids growing up and having to carry heavy backpacks for many years. It was not until high school where it finally changed for me. Thanks to having lockers it helped out a lot. However, I felt by that time in a way it was too late because I did begin to experience back pain.

    I sadly have that issue now like many adults with my shoulders and lower back. However, for me, it is also due to other health-related issues. I was also always tall for my age so experience may vary for kids. Lastly, I think it is smart you writing the disclaimer on the bottom of the article too. I find that important when reading certain important subjects.  

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment. Carrying a heavy backpack can become an issue for some people and we should all try to take precautions and wear it the right way.

    2. I have shoulder issues that I’m pretty sure are from carrying a satchel over one shoulder when I was a child. I’m short and was always the smallest in my class. That made it hard for me to reach things, so I wonder if that made my problem worse.

  4. My daughter and I go through this struggle every year at the beginning of the school year. Of course as a teenager it’s all about being cool but thank you for pointing out what to look for. I had no idea the width of the strap makes a difference in weight distribution.

    1. Been cool is important for teenagers but we should try and encourage them to wear their packs the right way so they don’t create unnecessary complications for themselves. You can also be cool while doing the right thing. It changes nothing.

  5. Hi Manual,

    Thanks for providing the interesting and important information about the best backpacks for our children (or in my case grandchildren)!

    I had no idea about the guidelines for the number of weight children should carry in their backpacks. Or that using just one of the two straps can cause pain or injuries.

    There are many more choices available today than 30 years ago when my child was growing up, so there is no reason for us not to make the best choices for their health.

    All the best to you, continue the good work!

    Kyle Ann

  6. Surely I never knew wearing a backpack with one shoulder strap could adversely affect a child. My 7 year old daughter is used to carrying her backpack with one strap everyday. From today I am going to make sure I teach her the right way to carry a backpack. Its a surprise how the small things we ignore in life tend to negatively affect us in the future. Surely, that’s why I love reading, knowledge is power.

    Thank you so much

    1. It’s very important that we encourage our kids to wear their backpacks the right way. A lot of people neglect this and it never even occurs to them. The safety of our kids is very important and we should never forget this.

    2. One strap is definitely an issue. I hope your 7-year-old has changed the way she carries her pack. I suffer from shoulder pain every day that stemmed from overusing one shoulder. I think it pinched a nerve because my hand goes numb when I put pressure on my shoulder. It could have been prevented if I had known then what I know now.

  7. SO true that structure and design makes a difference. I once had a “sling” – a one shoulder strap backpack – which I bought primarily because it was compartmentalized and I liked the way it looked. It didn’t get much use. 

    I wore it to the zoo one day, and quickly realized that it was a mistake. The stress on the shoulder that the strap was on hurt incredibly bad by the time we left the zoo. My back also hurt from leaning to compensate for the one-sided weight distribution. They are not meant for long carries. 

    I went back to padded 2 shoulder strap backpacks, and don’t allow my kids to use slings except for quick use –  like a change of clothes for a sleepover for example.

    1. One sling backpacks can really be a pain which is why I always encourage those with backpacks to try and have more than one backpack for different occasions. Making use of the sling backpack for a quick use can be ok as long as it is not loaded and not done often.

  8. Kids are our real treasure, the greatest joy of our life. Sure we want only the best for them. It is true that kids very often imitate us on everything, they are the real mirror where we can see the reflection of our self. So, we should be very careful and give always the best examples to follow for them. 

    Regarding backpacks, I too made the error of buying for my daughter a very heavy backpack and larger than it should. Now she’s on 3-d grade and finally, I have found the perfect backpack for her, aiming for a very light one, even if it costs more than the price of a cheap backpack.

  9. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your article, I could relate with some of the information you provided. Watching my kids carry backpacks full with books to and fro school every day encouraged me to have a chat with their teachers.

    I was told that it was necessary because they did not have facilities at school to leave their books there, they also needed to bring them home in order to complete homework.

    I think you make a great suggestion when you say to consider buying a second set of textbooks to have at home. The only downside to this is the cost. I really think schools should do more to remedy this problem.

    Thank’s for a great article.

    Dave.

    1. Thanks Dave for your comment. A lot of schools have this problem which makes kids carry almost all of their books to school every day. This can be a burden to a lot of kids and it would be a great stress reliever if schools are able to do something about this problem by providing lockers for their students.

  10. This is great.   I have 2 kids 8 and 10 that wear backpacks walking to school every day.   My 10-year-old manages (sometimes) to have hers on properly, but not my 8-year-old.   She has it in the too low position.

    I do agree that wearing them improperly can cause back problems and poor posture.   Unfortunately when I carry hers for her I put it on over one shoulder.  It’s simply too small for me to wear.

    1. I do understand that because the pack is really too small for you to wear. Been that you are an adult and that’s a kids pack you should not have any problem. Just try and make sure you don’t regularly do that

  11. Thank you for this important information about proper backpack use! My grand daughter is in the 4th grade and takes a backpack to school every day. Usually it doesn’t seem to be too heavy but I do see her wearing it on one side quite often. I will make sure I correct her on that! 

  12. Backpacks are sure popular today. When I was a kid we carried our books to school in a school bag! Times have changed and it seems the more electronic things they make today the bigger the backpack or is it me?

    The backpacks are made for kids to make it easier to carry their load.The waist and chest straps are definitely easier for them to carry everything and easier on their body.

    These are some great tips for buying the right backpack too. You sure don’t want your child developing back pain from a heavy backpack.I would make sure my child wears a backpack made out of vinyl. I don’t like the leather ones either.By the way, are these weatherproof?

    1. Yes Rob, items made from vinyl are waterproof. We all want the best for our kids so it is very important that any way we can do this that we do it and if a kid is making use of a backpack we can teach them on how they can wear it right so they don’t end up hurting themselves.

  13. I agree that backpacks hurt kids and adults back when they wear it the wrong way, and this I have seen and heard  about. I saw it in my own children and per chiropractors, I have spoken to. the backpacks you have suggested per your website look good quality and far better than many I have seen at the local stores. Great information how to pick a good one that is sized correctly for anyone per their size and ability.

    The external and internal frame difference I had no idea about. The history of the backpacks gives a good understanding of their origin. I remember going to school in the winter 50 years ago and all my books falling in the water or in a snow drifts. Papers getting ruined and books that I had to return caused me to just use trash bags in very bad weather.

    Great topic to discuss and give more options than I knew of before.

  14. As a parent I have always been concerned about how heavy my children’s backpacks were getting.  It seemed like everyday they would come home from school with something else that they had to carry.  It is very good advice to go through your children’s backpack with them to eliminate the non-essentials.It is also very good advice to wear a backpack properly, this is something simple that is really overlooked.

  15. Hello Manuel,

    I surely agree with you on this post. Most parents are not being safety conscious when it comes to the backpacks their children wear to school. And as you rightly said, children tend to learn a lot from their parents. So if the parents refuse to set the proper example with regards which backpack should be worn, their children will follow the same pattern and do the wrong thing which will affect them badly with regards of their health.

    I was very shocked about the estimate of children in Italy and France who put on backpacks with weight more than they should take. And I was wondering if their parents weren’t aware of this at all. Of course, the government can enforce laws about the appropriate backpacks to put on however, I personally think parents should take the responsibility of making sure their children wear the correct type of backpacks and also make sure they are not overweight.

    Your recommendations really make sense, especially about buying backs that are made with canvas or vinyl materials rather than leather backpacks. I think I should recommend this article to some of the parents I know who stay closer to my house so they can also read it and benefit from it. I have Bookmarked this post.

    Thanks a lot for sharing with us.

    Stephen.

    1. Yah, those are pretty shocking numbers and those are just in Italy and France. I wonder how the stats would be like in other countries. Really scary numbers. Thanks Steven for stopping by. Much appreciated.

      1. Stephen makes a lot of good points! This article is perfect for any parent, because like Stephen said, most parents are busy & unfortunately ignorant on how detrimental this could be to the back of a developing child.

  16. Great post! I’m definitely going to recommend this to my sister for my niece.

    I had no idea how serious this was, but I do remember having back pain as a child. Really appreciate you breaking down the characteristics of a good backpack as well!

    I can see how a bad backpack can have a negative & attritive affect on young kids back, especially when they’re developing!

    1. An item as little as a backpack can have a negative effect on the posture of a child if it is always worn the wrong way. This is one of the reasons why this post is extremely important to those with kids making use of backpacks

  17. realbackpacks.com is a great blog site. I do always follow your post. I was bought a backpack from suggesting and read a kids’ backpack review website. Please check & suggest me can I follow that?

    1. Thanks a lot Sabbir and I appreciate how important my advice is to you. I have taken a look at the website and from my perspective, they suggest some really good backpacks that would be of good use for kids.

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