The weight of school bags is now on the rise, with kids carrying heavy bags with books, sports equipments, shoes, musical instruments and many more, to attend after-school activities. Back pain in children must not be ignored if it is related to heavy school bags as the weight of the bag can cause permanent deformity of spine.
Various studies have shown carrying a school bag that weighs 10% more than the child’s body weight has led to pain in the lower back, shoulders and hands.
The sad part is that parents may dismiss these back pains as growing pains, wrong posture, sedentary lifestyle and other reasons. Until recent years, not much attention has been paid both by parents and school to the link between weight of school bag and the child’s growing muscles, backbone and spine. Surprisingly, this problem has been identified by the bag manufacturing companies who have come up with beautiful creations of kids’ school bags on wheels and trolley school bags.
While each country or region may have its own specification of how much weight a student can carry, it has generally been agreed that a child or an adult must not carry a bag that weighs more than 10-15% of the person’s body weight.
Get the right bag
- A backpack, rather than a shoulder bag, is ideal for school as it helps distribute the weight evenly. Backpacks with two straps are more preferable. A one-side backpack can cause a lot of strain on the side it is habitually carried.
- The backpack has to be made of light-weight material so that it does not contribute to the total weight of the bag.
- The straps of the backpack have to be thick. They have to be adjusted in such a way that the thick part coincides with the shoulder. This gives a cushioning effect on the shoulder for the weight it bears.
- The height of the backpack should not exceed 4 inches below the child’s waistline.
- A waist-clip in the bag can help position the bag close to the child’s back.
- The straps of the backpack have to be evenly spaced, but not dig into the child’s shoulders.
- A school bag with wheels is heavier than one that does not have wheels and handle. But if the child does not need to climb stairs or carry the bag for any other reasons, trolley school bags are the best bet.
- Remember, when it comes to choosing the right backpack for kids, function, form and comfort take over fashion and glamour.
Tips to pack your School Bag
- Take only the books that are required at school. Some subjects might have more than two books, and the student must be aware of what topic is meant for that day.
- Organizing books daily helps to take out the books that will not be used for the particular day and help reduce the bag weight.
- Pack only what you can carry. Avoid packing unnecessary things just because the bag can hold them.
- Place the heavier books closer to your back. This way, the weight will not be focused on the shoulders.
- Make use of the various compartments to put in books, notebooks, stationery and lunch boxes. This will not only help you find things easily, but also distribute the weight more evenly.
Posture to carry your School Backpack
- The position of the backpack must be high over the strong mid-back muscles, not exceeding more than 4 inches below waistline.
- The weight of the backpack must be close to the child’s centre-of-mass, that is, as close to the back as possible.
- Do not lean forward or backwards when carrying the bag. Maintain a straight back, with the bag just close to your back.
- Do not carry the bag on one side, hoping to shift to another when tired. This kind of habit can bend the backbone sideward because of asymmetric weight distribution.
Parent's contribution towards reducing bag weight
- Parents should encourage and guide the children in arranging the books required at school.
- Parents can make it a habit for the child to arrange books on a daily basis.
- The extra clutter, bits of papers, broken pencils, etc can be cleaned out once a week.
- Avoid hard-binding the textbooks. Soft-binding helps maintain the book and also does not contribute to the weight of the bag.
- Pouches can be used instead of boxes to carry stationery like pens and pencils.
- Teach the child to put down the bag while waiting for the bus, during assembly and other such situations.
Teacher's contributions towards reducing bag weight
- Teachers can give clear instructions for the study material to be bought the next day.
- Homework can be given on daily basis, but one subject per day. Allotting a day of the week for each subject can reduce the number of books to be carried for submitting homework.
- Sharing of textbooks can be done with pre-specified partners. One child can bring half the subject-books and another child can bring another set. So, when the class is being taught, the two children can share a textbook.
- Textbooks for grammar can be avoided and exercises can be done in the notebook. However, if the textbook comprises of worksheets, then notebook can be avoided.
- For language subjects, one notebook can be divided into two sections for grammar and literature, instead of carrying two notebooks.
School's contribution to reduce bag weight
- Language classes in the timetable can be specified as grammar and literature while making the timetable, instead of the particular language. For example: English grammar, English Literature, 2nd language grammar and 2nd language literature.
- Timetable could be in such a way that double classes are arranged for each subject. For example: Mathematics on all days, first language and science could alternate with second language and social sciences each day. This will restrict the number of subjects to three for the day.
- Lockers can be used by students to keep the things or books that need not be carried home every day. Alternatively, the students’ desks can be made with lockers so that the there is no running over to the locker room in between classes.
- Tutorial periods can also help the students complete the homework at school and hand over the books to the teachers.
A combination of approaches, ideas and suggestions, along with cooperation between parents and school, can go a long way in reducing the burden of one of the most serious health hazards of recent times.
- How to Avoid a Heavy Backpack - (http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-a-Heavy-Backpack)
- Dr Dillner's health dilemmas: are heavy schoolbags bad for children's backs? - (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/18/dr-dillners-health-dilemmas-heavy-backpacks)
- Heavy school bags can cause back and spine injuries - (http://www.news-medical.net/news/20090910/Heavy-school-bags-can-cause-back-and-spine-injuries.aspx)
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Himabindu Venkatakrishnan. 2021. How to Reduce School Bag Weight - Simple Tips. Medindia, viewed Jun 27, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/how-to-reduce-school-bag-weight-simple-tips.htm.
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