Experts: Choosing the right backpack means leaving fashion, what's cool behind

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) - An essential back to school item for most students is a backpack.

They come in all shapes, sizes and styles. And at times, some of your children may not think it's cool to get the one that they really need.

Doctors say parents need to intervene. And doing so could help them in the long run.

The excitement of back to school shopping is in the air.

"I want the fancy ones," said Aryel Wright, student shopper.

And for some students, finding the proper gear is key. And that means finding the perfect backpack.

"I like this one because it's a lot of color," said Daisha Harris, shopper. "I like stuff that stands out."

But experts say what's fashionable and cool should take a back seat

"We are seeing kids with back pain, neck pain," explained Associate professor and associate chair of ECU's College of Allied Health Sciences Dr. Amy Gross McMillan. "They develop poor postural habits, kind of hunching over to hold the backpacks up."

By the time your child fits textbooks, a library book, a snack, a cellphone, an iPad, and homework assignments into a backpack, it can take a toll on a young back.

"Think through the day what really needs to go home for homework," said McMillan. "If you don't need it, don't pack it."

A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed 60% of children ages 12 to 17 carried backpacks that weighed more than 10 to 15% of the child's body weight.

That means if a child is 60 pounds, the backpack should only weigh about 12 pounds, and more preferably, 6 pounds.

"And there are ways to put things in the backpack to keep the heaviest load closest to your back and then it will rig your backpack to keep everything closest to the center of your back, where your strongest muscles are," explained McMillan.

Another issue, many kids wear their backpacks over just one shoulder, which is the wrong way to wear a backpack. It causes the body to lean, putting strain on the shoulders and neck.

"One of our first and primary messages is, it has two straps, use both straps," said McMillan, who added that wider straps also are better than skinny straps.

And it's also a good idea to tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit close to the body, and it should sit 2 inches above the waist.

"We should take good care of [our] backs as early on in life and all throughout life as we can," said McMillan.

A backpack on wheels might seem like a good option, but consider all the pros and cons before purchasing one and contact your child's school first to be sure that backpacks with wheels are actually allowed.

Many schools don't allow them because they pose a tripping hazard in the hallways.

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