Heavy Schoolbags & Backpacks
Do you sometimes feel schools are training children to be porters when they grow up? You're not alone. All over the world, parents, doctors, and educationists are worrying about the weight that children have to carry, and the effect it has on their backs, shoulders, and general health.
An average schoolday consists of eight periods or classes, usually of different subjects. Each subject requires the child to carry a textbook and several notebooks. Added to the several kilograms of books and notebooks are lunchboxes, water bottles, and sports equipment. Children end up carrying huge burdens on their backs, and it is no wonder that so many of them have aching backs and shoulders.
Lifting heavy burdens for a long time or distance isn't good for anyone, least of all children. A recent study found that half of the schoolchildren studied had pain in the back or shoulders. The researchers also found that children in lower grades carried heavier bags.
Carrying a heavy bag on the back causes forward leaning and bad posture, which can lead to improper weight bearing on the spine, and pains and aches in the back and shoulders. Carrying a backpack weighing 15% of body weight makes a child or adolescent unable to maintain proper standing posture. Children could get into bad habits like poor posture and slouching.
Forward bending at the back (also called kyphotic posture) makes the work of breathing harder. Children carrying bags weighing more than 10% of their body weight have been found to have poorer lung function.
Children who use one strap bags (which put weight on one shoulder only) have particular problems. These bags cause sideways deviation of the spine (scoliosis) because of the asymmetric weight distribution, and this can cause long lasting back aches and damage.
Bags in the good old days were lighter because educational standards were lower, and there were not so many extracurricular activities available. We can't reduce educational standards or deprive children of their sports and other recreation, but efforts from teachers, school managements, and parents can help to great extent.
- Provide lockers to children in school. This will allow them to leave sports equipment, and certain books and notebooks in school.
- Buy two sets of textbooks, and keep one set each in school and at home. For a small additional expense, the weight carried to and fro each day is significantly reduced.
- Tell students in advance which books will be needed and which can be left at home. Some subjects have more than one book, and several notebooks.
- Teach the child to put down the bag when waiting at the bus stop, in the assembly, etc.
Last Revision: May 25, 2014