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Reminder: Wear Backpacks Safely to School

Greg Crump is a senior communications consultant for Kaiser Permanente and the father of two school-aged children. He has more than a decade of experience working with nonprofits, community organizations and local government.
Greg.Crump@kp.org

Every school day, students of all ages carry around books, school supplies, lunches, jackets and personal items as they travel to and from school and between classes.

A backpack is an essential item — everything from being a practical means of toting important belongings, to being a decorated reflection of the student’s personality and a symbol of their self-reliance.

Heavy loads, though, and improperly fitted backpacks can lead to back pain and even injuries. It is important for parents and school staff to be aware of a few safety basics when it comes to strapping on that pack.

How much weight is too much for a student’s backpack?

Properly fitted backpacks that are not too heavy can prevent injuries.

A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their weight. If your child weighs 70 pounds, that means a bag weighing 7 to 10 pounds — which is a couple of books, a full water bottle, a jacket and healthy lunch — could be pushing it.

Finding ways to lighten the load can mean less muscle soreness, less fatigue and a happier student ready for academic success.

It’s simple to keep kids safe from the discomfort and pain that can be caused by backpacks.

Choosing the best backpack

  • Select a backpack that is the correct size for the child — if it looks too big, it’s likely not the best size.
  • Pick a backpack with padded shoulder straps.
  • Find a backpack with a padded back for extra comfort.
  • Pick a pack with extra pockets and use the compartments to distribute the weight evenly.
  • If carrying heavy items is a must, consider a backpack that has wheels — if allowed by the school.

Wearing it right

  • Keep the load light — if the student has to lean forward, the pack is too heavy.
  • Heavy items should sit near the center and closest to the back.
  • Encourage children to use both shoulder straps rather than hanging the back pack on one side.
  • Secure the sternum strap and the hip belt.
  • Check that the backpack fits snugly and rests comfortably on the back.

At the very least, helping a student be aware of the potential for injury can be helpful in prevention. Apply these basics to make a difference and set students on a path to healthy backpack-wearing habits.

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