ISLAMABAD: Schoolchildren face tremendous mental and physical stress from carrying heavy backpacks at a young age.
Doctors say heavy school bags often result in mental stress and physical complications in children. “Carrying a backpack more than 10% of the child’s body weight can impact growth,” said Dr Nargis Kazmi at the Children’s Hospital at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad. “In developed countries, students have lockers and take few books home.”
Dr Kazmi said that heavy school bags can lead to backache, pain in the shoulders, distortion of the spine (kyphosis or scoliosis) and bad posture. However, there are certain steps that parents and teachers can take to reduce this load, she said.
Dr Nargis said that parents should regularly check bags since children tend to put unnecessary items in them. “Also make sure kids only take those books to school that are essential.” If the child insists it’s necessary to carry a whole lot of books, parents should consult the teachers, she added.
Citing the American Chiropractic Association, Dr Kazmi said backpacks should be adjusted to hang just above the waist and wide padded straps are better. “It is important that the straps fit the child’s shoulders.”
The trend of carrying the backpack on one shoulder can also cause muscular sprain, back pain and scoliosis, she emphasised. In fact, doctors warn that slinging a backpack on one shoulder bag can cause the body to curve to one side. “The child should be urged to wear both shoulder straps,” she said.
As a heavy load of homework can also cause mental exhaustion in children, some experts suggest engaging children in entertaining and participatory activities for learning lessons. Parents and teachers must focus on children’s creativity, recommended a child expert. Parents and school management should develop a strategy to avoid burdening children with the extra weight, according to doctors.
A mother of a fourth grader at a government school said that her daughter’s school bag was so heavy that even she could not lift it and they had to divide the books to carry them comfortably. “When I complained to the headmistress, she said that there was no other way because books are necessary for study,” she added.
But private schools are more mindful of the issue. Mrs Naqvi, Headmistress of Beaconhouse, Margalla Road, said her school is planning to adopt a policy to reduce the weight of schoolbags.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.