Backpack safety tips

August 30, 2010 4:58:30 AM PDT
It's a big day for the Hilgenbergs, as 3-year-old Bennett is starting preschool.

"He's starting big boy school this year, pre-k, and he's going to be carrying books and some school supplies and all of that good stuff," mom Kate Hilgenberg said.

It's a right of passage, and even little Lila Hilgenberg is eager to pick out her own backpack.

But experts say doing so is not child's play.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 7,000 children sustained injuries last year from overloaded backpacks.

"Stress on the muscles and joins of the neck, shoulders, and back as well," pediatrician Dr. Jessica Sessions said.

Dr. Sessions says parents should look for backpacks made out of lightweight material, no canvas.

She also shared some other tips that you may normally overlook, but are important.

"Padding of the shoulder pad straps and padding on the back," she said. "You want to have the straps to be wide, at least two inches, and want them to have adjustable straps."

That's so you can correctly position the backpack about two inches above the belt line.

Maria Bray zeroed in on a bag that Dr. Sessions agreed is a good alternative to a backpack.

"My daughter, this year for next year, is going to be carrying too many books, so I have to look for something with drag wheels, because it's going to hurt her back and she's only 11 and that's not good," Bray said.

While packing the bag, experts say to evenly distribute the weight by placing the heavy items closer to your back, the lighter things near the outside and most importantly, once full, make sure it doesn't weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child's body weight.

In Bennett's case, that means the backpack should weigh between 4 and 8 pounds.

"Oh no, I think his lunch weighs four pounds as it is, so I have to work on that," Hilgenberg said.

Researchers found the number one injury caused by backpacks has nothing to do with your back; the most injuries are caused by tripping over them.