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Take a look at what's in that book bag

Every year i become aware of articles and television items about kids' backpacks

There are stories on how to chose a pack, how to wear it and the dangers inherent in carrying too much or carrying a load incorrectly.

And every year I see kids on the street and in the malls slouched forward. They are clearly trying to carry an obviously heavy load. I also notice kids with backpacks hanging down over their bums, or slung carelessly over one shoulder.

One company, Obusforme, sent us a note about their new line of backpacks with bright colours and distinctive patterns, like plaid (this year's must-have), designed to appeal to kids.

But it's also win-win for parents who will be pleased with the ergonomic benefits of the packs, which are designed to carry the load closer to the body's centre of gravity making the load feel lighter.

It's important, they note, that kids have the right pack and carry the load properly.

What happens if they just fill the pack and put it on without considering the weight or the position of the pack?

When it's filled with books and incorrectly placed on the shoulders it can pull the child backward. These are the kids I see slouching forward. They lean forward to offset the weight that is trying to pull them backward. This can cause the spine to compress, and it might create shoulder, neck and back pain.

Similarly, when kids carry their pack over one shoulder, they tend to lean to one side and they may develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.

Improper backpack use can lead to poor posture. Posture

becomes increasingly important as you age and if a child develops a lousy stance when they are young they are not likely to improve as they age.

Poor posture also causes a person to look less assertive, less confident or less capable. Their clothing will not hang right, which doesn't improve the whole appearance.

Kids also forget just how big their pack is and may hit others when moving through tight spaces such as aisles in the classroom or on the bus.

Backpacks are also fabulous. It sure beats carrying books in your arms, which I recall doing. I became an expert at layering books on my binder and hoping nothing slipped. And I'm sure I was bent forward the whole time.

A correctly worn backpack is a boon to all students. When choosing a backpack, look for some of the following features:

- Two wide, padded shoulder straps,

- a padded back and waist strap, and

- it should be lightweight.

The next step is to pack it properly. Make sure your children's packs contain only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. It's a good idea to know roughly what each item weighs. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer's own body weight.

It's a good idea to help young children with putting the backpack on, at least the first few times. Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip on the pack one shoulder at a time then adjust the straps to fit comfortably.

Remember when lifting a backpack, or anything, to lift using the arms and legs and to bend at the knees.

Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child's back. The waist strap should also be worn for added stability.

With just a little planning and awareness, your child's backpack can be trendy, safe and convenient.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. For information or to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, go to her website at