Backpacks for young backs

Best for your back

Wearing a school backpack correctly isn't child's play - your kid's back can suffer lasting injury if a few important pointers aren't followed. Check out our tips - and take a little weight off your child's shoulders.

An increasing number of South African school children are developing back problems. Doctors suggest a major reason for this is overloaded or badly fitted school backpacks. Children today are less active than those of previous generations and this makes them more prone to injuries caused by backpacks that are too heavy.

The teen years are also the period of fastest growth and development, which means teenaged spines are particularly vulnerable.

Adjustable straps:
The straps should not be too loose. Get your children into the habit of adjusting the straps every time they put on or take off the backpack. Bags that can be adjusted will eliminate the need to twist the spine as kids squirm into or out of the straps.

Pack it right:
Make sure the backpack contains only the essentials. Bags with compartments help to organise and distribute the weight evenly.

Take care to pack heavier items at the bottom and as close to the child's back as possible to take the strain off the shoulders and to encourage better posture.

Use a hip-belt:
Choose a backpack with a hip-belt to ensure the neck and shoulders don't have to bear all the weight of the bag.

Wide, padded shoulder straps:
Make sure shoulder straps are wide enough and have enough padding to provide maximum comfort and support.

Use both straps
Wear the straps over both shoulders to ensure an even weight distribution over the back and shoulders.

The correct weight:
The backpack shouldn't weigh more than 15 per cent of the child's body weight. If the weight of the bag forces the child to lean forward it means it's overloaded.

Position of the backpack:
Make sure the backpack doesn't hang lower than the waistline.

YOU Pulse; Summer, December 2007

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