Earlier this week, I posted a photo of my kids’ new roller
backpacks on Instagram (and Facebook) and a discussion got going about the
insanity of backpack heaviness and the load that kids have to LITERALLY carry
around with them. Every. Day. So, I wanted to talk about that here, because it
has been on my mind lately and I feel like this is an issue. Our kids are
like little Atlases carrying around the weight of their studies—which is
totally a metaphor, by the way, because, ugh.
Not that homework is a bad thing. I don’t have any issues
with homework but that may be because I have a child who only asks me to help
him once a month because he, at age 9, is already smarter than I am. (I
literally cannot help him with his math. I can help him with his writing and that’s about it.) Archer is very type A when it comes to schoolwork and
will do his homework immediately when coming home, some of which he has already
managed to do in class during free time. He never has more than 45 minutes of
homework a night and if he does, we don’t let him finish. Because, in the words
of his (amazing) teacher, “You should not have to do more than 45 minutes of
homework a night.”
Deal. Done. Case closed.
But Archer’s backpack is hard for ME to carry and I am EXTREMELY buff and strong, you guys. I baby-wore two toddlers at once!
So, for this post at least, my issue is more to do with the
physical workload more than the academic workload. Because while my 9-year-old
shows little sign of struggle when it comes to homework, he has been physically
in pain for years from carrying around so much weight.
(Side note: I feel terrible that it took me until now to purchase
him a roller backpack, but it took Archer a minute to be OK with it, which I
totally get. Who wants to drag a suitcase up a school stairwell? It’s better
than carrying all that weight on your back, though, that’s for sure.)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a backpack
shouldn’t weigh more than 10-20 percent of a child’s body weight. (If only!)
backpacks don’t just sap children of energy that might be better used doing
schoolwork or playing sports. Lugging them can also lead to chronic back pain,
accidents and possibly lifelong orthopedic damage.
the risks described by Dr. Pierre D’Hemecourt, a sports medicine
specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, are stress fractures in the back,
inflammation of growth cartilage, back and neck strain, and nerve damage in the
neck and shoulders …
issue has been raised repeatedly in countries all over the world for more than
a decade. In December 1999, doctors in Milan reported in The Lancet that 34.8 percent of Italian schoolchildren carried more than
30 percent of their body weight at least once a week,
“exceeding limits proposed for adults.”
load carried by these sixth-graders was equivalent to a 176-pound man hauling
around a 39-pound backpack each day.
even in this digital era, when at least some schoolwork can be done online,
there has been no apparent decrease in the burdens we ask the younger
generation to tote around all day.
And what of the kids who have to walk
to school or to and from bus stops? (There is no bus system where we live which
totally sucks. But at least my kids don’t have to channel Cheryl Strayed when
Meanwhile, some kids aren’t even ALLOWED to use roller
backpacks because they can trip people, which, OK—but what about rolling suitcases in airports?
Is there a difference? Is the risk of a child tripping here and there greater
than hundreds of children dealing with chronic back issues? I mean, you tell
me. Tripping sucks, don’t get me wrong, but airports somehow make due with
And what’s even crazier is that along with a backpack full
of books, Archer also carries a laptop to and from school every day. Surely
there are ebooks that are compatible with that laptop, right?
What do you think? Is this an issue for your kid(s)? Are
their backpacks insanely heavy? Fable’s still in kindergarten so her backpack
is only heavy because she brings all of her favorite things to school with her,
not because she has to bring books home, but Archer’s backpack is hard for ME
to carry and I am EXTREMELY buff and strong, you guys. I baby-wore two toddlers