The Dangers of Overloaded Backpacks
It may be adorable when your kids strap on their enormous backpacks and head off to school – struggling toward the bus stop against the weight of their books – which, put together, roughly equals the weight of a few cinderblocks.
However, research has shown overloaded backpacks can actually be damaging to our kids’ health in more ways than one. Their bodies are still in the process of growing and shaping, and their spines are still developing. Carrying around a significant portion of their body weight on their backs day after day is not a healthy routine. In fact, it can cause harmful changes to posture and result in back pain.
Carrying a backpack that is more than 10-15% of a child’s body weight can have negative affects – the unnecessary weight will try to pull the child backwards, and as a result he or she may slump forward or arch the back, which is an unhealthy position for the back over extended periods of time.
There are several reasons kids overload their backpacks. One is convenience – rather than stop by their lockers between each class to exchange the books they just used for the books they need, they may think it easier to carry around everything. Another is disorganization – rather than discard old papers, folders, and the like, they may just stuff everything, regardless of context, straight into their bag – while a few papers may not weigh much, this can add up to an overstuffed backpack over time. Finally, they may be bringing all their books home each day, because they may need each book for their homework that night.
While teaching your kids proper organization skills may seem like a Sisyphean task, it’s worth the effort – not only will they be putting less strain on their developing spines, they’ll be learning valuable lessons on planning for the future. To help promote organization and keep backpack weight down, there are a few things you can do:
- Run a backpack audit on a regular basis with your child. Identify any papers, folders, or other loose items that can be discarded or filed away. Make sure the things your kid does need are properly organized in folders and not loosely tossed in their backpack.
- When your kids get home, sit down to plan their homework for the night. Did they bring any books that are unnecessary to that night’s homework? If so, identify them and set them aside until morning. Over time, your child will begin to think about what they need to take home and what can be left in their lockers at school.
- Keep books at home – if there are books (such as homework assignment books) that your child does not need to bring to school, keep them at home. You could also keep an extra copy of some of your child’s books at home, so that they don’t need to lug all their texts from home to school and back again.
- Buy a smarter backpack. A lightweight backpack with padded, wider straps and a padded back are easier on the back. Backpacks on wheels are an option, as well (although these are more difficult to carry through snow, off road, or up stairs).
- Evaluate how your kids feel. Do they feel better with a much lighter load on their backs? Likely, over time, they will begin to see the benefit of keeping their backpacks lighter, and will adapt better organizational habits naturally.
These tips can help your kids keep stress and weight off their backs, maintain proper posture, and develop better organizational skills. Establishing good habits as a child will promote better health as an adult – so if your child is coming home with an aircraft carrier-sized backpack, don’t delay – start correcting the problem today!