When shopping for a new school backpack - think about safety

Books, computers, musical instruments, coats and shoes can all get stuffed into your child's backpack. Before the aches and pains kick in, now's the time to set some backpack protocol.

Many kids will be shopping for a new backpack this year. We should take more into consideration, though, besides color, style or logo. Safety comes into play as well.

Dr. Kim Giuliano of Cleveland Clinic Children's says it's always best to choose a backpack that has two wide padded straps - and to use them. Both.    

"Bags that only have one strap that's designed to be put over one shoulder, or putting straps over one shoulder at a time sends kids center of gravity off kilter and can cause a lot of back and shoulder discomfort, sometimes neck discomfort, too."

Backpacks that are worn incorrectly or that are too heavy can injure muscles and joints, which can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.   

Other safety features to look for include a padded back, a waist strap, and a bag that's made with lightweight materials.   

How the backpack is worn makes a difference, too. It's recommended that both shoulder straps are used to correctly distribute weight, and kids should pack light. A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of a child's total body weight.   

Heavier items should be placed closest to the center of the back. Dr. Giuliano says it's a good idea to tighten the straps so the backpack is worn snug and close to the body. 

"If there's a lot of slack it can get caught on other children, doorknobs, in the hallways at school, or getting up and off the steps of a school bus that could enable a child to get caught and potentially trip and fall," she says.

 She adds that once a backpack is adjusted so it's snug, it's also important to tie or safety-pin long, dangling straps to prevent a child from getting caught on something or tripping.  

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