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Backpack Safety: Take a Load off Your Child's Back with the Right Backpack

Written by Lisa Jillanza

It's almost that time of year again,.back to school! As the new school year approaches, parents and students shopping for back to school supplies are urged to keep backpack safety in mind.

As a child I remember lugging a backpack full of books as well as my cello six blocks to and from school (up-hill both ways of course) without even realizing that this type of weight and stress could have resulted in back-related injuries spanning my entire life.

According to health.msn.com, each year about 6,000 children in the United States experience back-pack related injuries.

At the start of the school year last year, the popular magazine Consumer Reports sent a survey team to a number of schools to find out how much weight kids were lifting , in their backpacks. Parents were shocked to learn that of the students surveyed, the average weight hauled by second-graders was 5.3 pounds, fourth-graders carried 4.6 pounds and sixth-graders averaged a whopping 18.4 pounds.

To help alleviate some of the back pain and stress on your child, health.msn.com suggests that instead of going the “cheap route” or choosing a backpack by the character on it, parents should instead keep the following factors in mind when choosing a backpack:

Choose a lightweight backpack that doesn't add too much to your child's load. The pack should have two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back that will improve comfort and protect your child from being poked by the sharp points and edges of pencils, pens, rulers and other objects they need to carry.

Shoulder straps anchors should be about 1- to 2- inches below the top of the shoulder and the bottom of the backpack should go along the curve of the lower back. The backpack itself should not fall more than 4 inches below the waist.

Check for good stitching that is able to hold a decent amount of weight.

Select the proper size backpack for your child. It should cover no more than three-quarters of the length of your child's back.

Load backpacks carefully. The maximum weight of a loaded pack should not be more than 15 percent of a child's body weight. Place the heaviest books closest to the back as they require the most body support. If a child has to lean forward to carry a pack, it's too heavy.

Have your child wear the pack correctly. He or she should use both shoulder straps. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder puts too much strain on one side of the upper body. The straps should be snug, but not too tight. If a backpack has a waist strap, use it to help better support the load.