Recently, rolling backpacks have emerged on the scene as the thing to get. Surrounded by buzz that they eliminate strain on a child’s back and make walking to school more fun, plenty of parents have jumped onto the “rolly backpack” bandwagon. And they look fun; being reminiscent of luggage. They can make each departure for school feel like you’re jetting off on an airplane to a new adventure. But are they actually better for children? Should they be only for some children and not for others? Should schools be allowed to regulate whether or not they allow kids to have rolling backpacks? Deciding whether or not your buy a rolling backpack for your child may come down to whether or not your child needs one for physically reasons, and whether or not your school allows them. There is always the danger that even if your student wants and need a backpack, that they are not allowed one.
Are They More “Healthy?”
According to a study put out by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than three thousand children suffer every year from orthopedic problems caused by carrying heavy backpacks. When third graders are varying almost half their body weight in books, there is definitely a problem (though it might not necessarily be with the backpacks). Part of the problem also lies with the kinds of backpacks parents are buying for their children. With the plethora of advanced options, it’s a wonder anyone opts to buy the bottom-rack models. With cushioning for the back and shoulders, most children are perfectly fine with a regular pack. For those with chronic back problems, or who cannot handle the weight of their books, rolling backpacks are the best option.
There is of course, a separate danger with rolling backpacks. They are a tripping hazard. So while one child might have relief, in a crowded hallway, if another child isn’t looking where he’s going, a whole other problem is going to be created. Rolling backpacks are also easier to lose and leave behind, as they are not literally strapped to a child’s back. If your child is responsible enough to hang on to their own possessions, these packs with wheels are a viable option.
Do be aware that with anything that requires the hand to perform a prolonged task, like holding on to a handle, comes a whole gauntlet of ergonomic problems. The handle must be comfortable for a small hand to grasp and pull, and in case the child does have to carry the pack from time to time, you should be sure that this is not too tiresome, and that the backpack provides adequate support.
While the majority of school welcome rolling backpacks, some have banned them, as they can be a hazard in the hallways. If your school is one of these, it will probably make it clear on your “back to school” shopping list, or at the very least, on the school’s website. However, there may be other, less bureaucratic restrictions on whether or not your child can use a rolling pack. First, if your middle school or high school requires students to leave their bags in their lockers, many rolly packs are too wide to fit in the traditional locker. The solutions for this problem are two-fold. Either, ditch the pack and pick up a regular backpack, or find a teacher that will let your kid leave his backpack in her room for the day. Lots of schools won’t let anyone carry their bag around, for safety reasons, and very few are willing to compromise on this point.
Another restriction is the school’s terrain. This may seem ridiculous to some, but if your kid’s school is surrounded by rough terrain, this backpack is going to be beat up much more quickly than if it is just rolling around on smooth concrete and asphalt. Picking a version that has tough rubber wheels and reinforcement for the back and bottom is going to make all the difference when it comes to the rough and tumble school yard.
Just like any other backpack, rolling backpacks come in a wide range of styles and designs. Your child, like most children, probably has strong opinions about what looks cool and what doesn’t. Though they may want to feel like they are hurrying through airport, late for a flight as they tow their luggage, they probably don’t want to look like they are. While there are plenty of styles available, especially avoid ones that look like carryon bags. There’s no way that falls into the cool category. Rather, it looks like your parents didn’t want to buy you a new backpack, so they just dug some luggage out of storage and sent you on your merry way.
The final decision—whether or not to buy a rolling backpack—is going to come down to whether or not your school allows it, and then, secondly, whether or not your child needs or wants one. While they do alleviate the strain of carrying a too-heavy pack, they do create other hazards, and realistically, for the majority of children, as long as the backpack is not too heavy (less than twenty percent of the child’s weight), there is no real danger is carrying a standard backpack. For children that need them, and can fit them into their lockers, they are a great option for toting around all those heavy Algebra books.
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