“Ever-increasing scholastic demands may mean that children are lugging home more books in their backpacks, often resulting in injuries,” says LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker. She advises comparison shopping when looking for backpacks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says a loaded backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child's total weight; other experts recommend staying closer to 10 percent. A recent Consumer Reports study found that backpacks weighed an average of 17.2 percent of a sixth-grader’s body weight.
In 2004 about 7,600 hospital-treated injuries in the United States were associated with backpacks, with the most vulnerable age group was 9- to 16-year-olds.
So how can you ensure that your child's backpack is as safe as possible? Tucker recommends that backpacks should be worn about 2 inches above the waist and with both shoulder straps close to the body. Straps should be shortened (and the excess length fastened securely out of the way) to avoid being stepped on or caught in doors. Reflective trim on the back and sides of the pack improves visibility, especially in the fall and winter months, when kids may travel to and from school in near darkness.
When shopping for a new backpack, look for the following features recommended by Consumer Reports:
– Shoulder straps that are contoured and padded to soften the load.
– A waist belt to stabilize the pack and transfer weight to the hips.
– A padded or quilted back or one with mesh fabric to make the bag less sweaty on steamy days.
– Compression straps on the sides to tighten a partially filled backpack.
– Multiple pockets: small ones for a calculator, a cell phone and keys and a concealed inside pocket for cash.
– Dual zippers for the main compartment.
– Waterproof, colorfast material.
Editor: Mark Claesgens
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture