Do you know how much your child's backpack weighs? Do you even know what your children have in their backpacks? One occupational therapy professor says it's important to ask these questions.
Wednesday, September 18th is National School Backpack Awareness Day. Karen Jacobs, national spokesperson for the American Occupational Therapy Association, says millions of students across the nation cram textbooks, notebooks, computers, and other items into their backpacks and then wear them incorrectly.
"Research suggests that incorrect wearing -- the weight, the amount of time, and the distance stepped, and poor placement of items in the backpack -- can contribute to some risk factors that we've seen," says Jacobs, who is also a clinical professor in occupational therapy at Boston University. "Those are discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, muscular skeletal discomfort, even respiratory problems."
The good news is that people have become more aware of the problem in recent years.
"Teachers and administrators are becoming more aware of the issue and are looking at ways they can make changes," Jacobs continues. "Parents, I think, are key, because when parents understand the different steps that can be taken to lighten the weight of the backpack, or making sure they're wearing the correct backpack, that is making an impact as well."
Jacobs advises families to have serious discussions about backpacks. And she adds that while it may be cost effective, using the same backpack for years may not be the best idea for children.
"One backpack that was for a six-year-old ... may not be the right backpack for that child when they're nine years old," she explains. "So it's something that I feel parents need to work on with their child. Discuss things and be aware of what their child puts in their backpack."
More information is available at her organization's website.