Backpack Safety

Many children and teens rely on backpacks to carry their books and other school supplies throughout the day. While backpacks are convenient, they can sometimes cause muscle and joint pain when used incorrectly.

Share the following backpack tips with your child or teen to help them avoid back, shoulder and neck pain.

  • To distribute weight evenly, choose a backpack that has two shoulder straps instead of one, and encourage your child to always use both shoulder straps.
  • The shoulder straps should be wide and padded for comfort, and tightened so that the backpack is close to the body. A good rule of thumb is the bottom of the backpack should be two inches above his or her waist.
  • Since your child will be carrying many items in the backpack, make sure the backpack itself is lightweight. Overall, the backpack and its contents should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s total body weight.
  • Choose a backpack that has a padded back to protect your child from sharp objects inside.
  • Teach your child to bend using both knees instead of bending at the waist.
  • Remind your child that they do not need to carry all of their books for the day in their backpack – he or she should stop at their locker throughout the day, if possible, to swap out what they need.
  • The backpack should be organized in a way in which all compartments are being used, and heavier items should be packed closest to the center of the backpack.
  • A rolling backpack may be a good option for your child if he or she has a heavy load.

Encourage your child to speak up if they are having any pain from using a backpack, and if so, talk to their pediatrician for help.