"Kids who use backpacks often use them incorrectly and to their physical detriment," she says. "Big bags can have a lasting physical impact on developing skeletal systems and posture."
Hickey conducted a research study on the physically damaging affects of heavy backpacks after witnessing her own children strain under the weight of their schoolbooks. About 70 percent of the middle school students in her experiment were lugging around a backpack that was harmful to their growing bodies. While small kids hauling around 25-pound backpacks is a common sight in elementary, middle and high school hallways, according to Hickey's computation, only a 200-pound person can safely carry a bag of this size.
"The most important thing for parents to know is that there are simple ways to prevent kids from permanently damaging their backs," Hickey explains. Hickey offers some advice for parents to keep in mind, especially while shopping for back-to-school gear:
- As a rule, kids should never carry a bag that weighs more than 10% of their body weight. This rule applies to all students, no matter what age. "If your child is unable to stand up straight with the pack on, the load is too heavy," explains Hickey.
- Remind your kids about the value of lockers. Reducing backpack poundage will prevent any serious back pain in the future.
- The bigger the bag, the more stuff kids will cram into it. Purchase a smaller backpack that will only fit the bare necessities. This will prevent kids from lugging around those leftovers from lunch, notes passed in math class, or half-melted chapsticks.
- Periodically remind your child to clean out trash and remove old papers and homework.
School nurses can also lend a hand by encouraging kids to keep their bags light and warn them of the potential danger heavy backpack may cause their growing bodies. Librarians can also protect young spines by keeping a set of school textbooks on reserve to lighten the backpack load on the way to and from school.
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