School is just around the corner. A couple days ago, I brought you tips designed to get your child to school safely. Now, a new report offers tips on backpack safety. Most people probably don’t realize the danger that can be posed by such an innocuous-seeming product, but the risk should not be underestimated. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that backpacks have been to blame for 13,700 injuries incurred by children between five and 18 years of age.
To offset the risk of injury, parents should think about following a variety of safety tips as detailed in a new column. First, the American Academy of of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises that a backpack should hover between about 10 to 15% of a child’s overall weight. Most injuries occur because the backpack was too heavy for the child. A kid can incur a strain or other injury when they go to lift a carrier that’s beyond their safe lifting capability.
In addition to properly loading the backpack, it’s also imperative to simply choose the right backpack. A backpack should be appropriate to the child’s size and weight. One might also consider investing in a backpack with wheels. This would offset the danger created whenever a child hoists weight onto their shoulders.
If you do decide to set your child up with a shoulder backpack, then make sure they use both straps when carrying it. These straps should be cinched tight, and if a waist strap is available, that should be used as well. Larger, heavier items should go toward the back, and don’t be afraid to do some reorganizing if the weight becomes too great. Items that don’t need to make the commute should be left behind, and the child should be taught proper lifting techniques involving bending at the knees.
There are also some things parents can do as time goes on to ensure that the backpack their child uses remains safe. Keep tabs on if the kid begins to exhibit changes in posture with the carrier strapped to their back. If red marks begin to appear on their shoulders, the weight might be too great. This also goes for when you see the child visibly struggling to remove or put on the backpack.
Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns to the relevant parties. Let kids know they should tell you if they feel any pain or numbness in their extremities. If you notice that your child’s backpack is consistently overflowing with heavy books and items, then consider discussing the issue with the school to see if they can lighten things up a bit. Also verify that children are able to drop things off at lockers at intervals throughout the day.
Finally, one common threat that isn’t always considered: keep backpacks out of well-traveled walkways in the home.