Teacher’s Diary

Teach children to pack only the ‘needed’ in their school bags from a small age. Doctors and physiotherapists have recommended that children’s school bags should not weigh more than 10 per cent to 15 per cent of their body weights.

Ideally, carrying their bags on their back is better than hanging them over one shoulder or carrying them in their hands, like brief-cases. This is because the muscles of the back and of the abdomen, which are the strongest muscles in the body, support the weight of backpacks or rucksacks. When chosen and worn properly, the weight of the content of the backpack, is evenly distributed across the child’s body.

Your child’s skeleton is still growing. A heavy school bag that’s slung over his or her shoulder would only press badly on your child’s vertebral column (spine) and its supporting muscles and ligaments. The immediate problems that this could cause children include back, neck and shoulder aches. Also, children may experience tingling, numbness and weakness in their hands. Frequent fatigue and tiredness may be observable. Progressively, child may complain of headaches, and you may find that their posture is worsening. A hunched back and spinal curvature may not be far-fetched.

Teachers and parents are the rightly-placed people to effect changes in a campaign for better healthier school bags. The following tips may guide you in choosing the best backpack to buy your child or advise parents of:

▪Choose a light-weight backpack that would not add its weight to your child’s school things.
▪Choose a backpack with two wide padded shoulder straps. The wideness of the straps would not dig into your child’s shoulders and cause him/her shoulder and neck pains.

▪Choose a backpack with a padded back and base to increase the comfort for your child. A padding at the base of the bag would protect your child from being pricked by their sharpened pencils or compasses.
▪Choose a backpack that also has a waist belt. This reinforces an even distribution of the load’s weight.
▪Ensure that the backpack has several compartments to enable your child sort out his/her things in a more organised manner and distribute the load more evenly.

▪Guide your child to pack his/her school bag lightly. Be involved in helping your child to use his/her timetable to leave behind the books not needed that day.
▪Encourage child to lock his/her books away in his/her own locker at school and bring home only what he needs for after-school study.

▪Inspect your child’s school bag frequently. Discourage him/her from taking weightier items like laptops, video games, mobile phones and table top games to school.

▪Teach your child to pick up his/her backpack the right way by bending at his/her knees to do so.
▪Discourage your child from wearing both straps of his/her backpack over one shoulder because this is easier or looks ‘funkier’. This causes child to lean to one side so as to offset the extra weight.

▪Train child to learn to be more organised by using all the pockets and slots on the backpack.
▪Guide child to put heavier items like textbooks and notebooks at the centre of the backpack to centralise the weight.

Health are warning that an increasing number of children are developing irreversible back deformities due to the heaviness of their school bags. Doctors are reporting a rise in cases of spinal abnormalities in school children including disfiguring curvatures known as scoliosis.

Omoru writes from the UK