Children’s school bags are getting heavier, especially in these Covid-19 times, where teachers prefer for children not to leave books in school, in the event of having to switch to Home-Based Learning at short notice. What’s more, many schools now require that students have a personal learning device, which only adds to the carrying load.
With this in mind, more parents may be looking out for an ergonomic school bag — a bag that won’t hurt a child’s back or spine — for the new school year. But is it worth the splurge?
Does Every Child Need An Ergonomic School Bag?
First, let’s dispel a common myth. Carrying a heavy backpack to school every day can certainly result in neck, back, and shoulder aches. However, if you are worried that it could also lead to scoliosis — a condition where the spine curves sideways — there is currently no evidence for this.
That said, daily backpack strain can contribute to poor posture, aggravate existing spinal conditions, and even cause nerve damage. But does this mean that ideally, every child should be carrying an ergonomically designed school bag?
While school bag design can make a difference, the bigger issues to be concerned about are the total load that your child is carrying, and the duration of any potential strain. For instance, if your child doesn’t take public transport, his or her school bag load would be less of a concern, as your child will only have to bear the weight for several minutes a day while moving from the school bus or car to the classroom, and vice versa.
For a child who is travelling on public transport for over an hour a day — or one who needs to carry a backpack from classroom to classroom — the impact will be far greater, and your child will be more likely to experience backpack-related discomforts.
Choosing A School Bag That Won’t Hurt Your Child
Any school bag — ergonomic or not — can cause strain if it is filled to the brim, and heavier than the recommended carrying load. In Singapore, our Health Promotion Board has advised that children should carry no more than 15% of their body weight — for most local children, this weight would be between 3.5kg and 5kg, at least for the early primary school years.
To prevent children and teens from overloading their bags, buy the smallest bag that can contain everything that needs to be brought to school. Also, some kids tend to leave all of their books in their school bags, to avoid the hassle of having to pack their bags every day. To counter this, do explain to your child that this habit can have serious health repercussions, and drive home the message that it is not a waste of time to inspect one’s bag every night, in order to lighten the load.
Here are some other pointers to note, whether you are buying an ‘ordinary’ school bag or a bag from an ergonomic brand:
Size: Primary schoolers generally use backpacks rather than sling bags. To choose a backpack of the right size, imagine a rectangle from your child’s shoulder blades to the waist — this is where much of the backpack should rest. Don’t choose an oversized backpack in the hope that it will ‘last’ longer; a suitably fitting backpack should not extend below your child’s waist by more than 10cm.
Padding: Choose a bag with wide, padded, and easily adjustable shoulder straps. A padded back panel is a plus for greater comfort.
Load Distribution: Additional straps such as chest and hip belts can help to stabilise the load — although it is unlikely that many children will use these features. Multiple bag compartments (as opposed to a single compartment) will also help with load distribution.
To play it safe, your child should be mindful to take breaks (i.e. set the bag down) if he or she needs to carry a heavy backpack over a longer period. To avoid injury when putting on a heavy backpack, always try to place it on an elevated surface such as a tabletop before ‘wearing’ it. Also, be sure to use both shoulder straps, to avoid straining one side of the body.
Where To Buy Ergonomic School Bags In Singapore
Below are some places where you can begin your search for the perfect school bag. Or you could simply use an online app such as Lazada or Shopee, and search for “ergonomic school bags” to find backpacks that meet the criteria discussed above.