Too often you hear complaints of back, shoulder, and even neck pain in the school hallways. When students express these pains, they often receive incredulous looks of confusion because these complaints generally are heard from middle age to elderly people. So why in the world are they coming from supposedly healthy high school students? While many factors can contribute to back pains such as, playing sports, poor posture, and even not being active enough. The relatively simple answer is their backpacks.
Many students, especially those in advanced classes, are required to carry binders and notebooks for most, if not all of their classes. Having, a binder and notebook for a class doesn’t seem like much, but having four to seven of them in one backpack can be upwards of twenty pounds and that’s not even including textbooks and other books. When students talk about their heavy baggage many reply with, “Do you really need all of that stuff?” And yes, they do! If students weren’t required to have all of their supplies with them, then it wouldn’t be an issue.
However, “according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a backpack should weigh no more than 10-20% of a person’s body weight,” Kim Baggett, Deer Park High School nurse said.
So, the constant problem faced by many students is, “How do I lighten my load?” Some tips for lessening backpack related strain include using both straps, tightening the backpack straps, and distributing items wisely throughout the bag. Using one strap can cause intense pressure on one side of the spine, so using both straps helps alleviate that unnecessary pain.
“Backpacks with thin straps can ‘dig’ into your shoulders causing extra pain. Wide, padded straps are a better choice,” Baggett said.
By tightening the straps of backpack, the bag is pulled up so that it is actually resting on the upper back rather than the lower back, which causes more force and pressure on the back. The final tip is placing items evenly throughout the backpack. Placing heavier items such as binders and textbooks closer to the back, and smaller items such as notebooks or planners further from the back helps properly distribute the weight of the bag.
Some teachers have tried to help students by letting them keep their notebooks in the classroom as a temporary solution. While this may work for some, when it comes to studying for tests, finishing work outside class, and skepticism of the safety of their notebooks, many students are still stuck with having to take their notebooks home.
“The best way to minimize damage is probably to lighten the load. Clean out old papers, leave extra books at home, don’t overload your backpack with unnecessary junk,” Baggett said.
Consequently, class notebook checks are popular grade option for teachers. Thus, bringing a notebook to class is necessary. Notebook checks are done by teachers to make sure that students are doing their work and taking notes. The main issue with notebook checks is that it requires students to have an individual notebook for each class, rather than combining all of the student’s notes for every class in a single notebook which can shave off a couple pounds from each backpack.
However, with each new year, schools are working to move towards becoming completely dependent on technology. As the years progress student’s notebooks, binders, and textbooks will all be accessible at the touch of a button, ridding students of heavy backpacks all together. Despite the all the perks technology has to offer, this tech revolution could take many years before it is the sole educational tool used. Besides, technology isn’t always efficient and user friendly. It also requires a lot of money for the districts to be able to provide for all of their students. Not to mention that not every student has Wi-Fi outside of school.
While the future seems to be looking up for next generations, the current students are stuck carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. So far, technology seems to be the answer to students’ prayers; however, it isn’t always reliable. What will happen to the present generation of students? Not to mention the previous classes who endured the same struggle. What are the negative long-term effects of heavy backpacks? Will this back-to-back problem ever disappear, or is it just a part of being a student? One thing is for sure, this epidemic of heavy bags is something that needs to get taken back to the drawing board and should be one of school’s top priorities rather than being put on the back burner.