Parents

Back-to-school safety: Is your child's backpack too heavy?

As your children head back to school, are they lugging too much weight in their backpacks? What about their lunches: Are they overloaded with added sugar? And in the event of an emergency, would they know how to contact you?

On Monday, TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen was joined by Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids Worldwide, to kick off Back to School Checklist, a special Rossen Reports series with tips to keep your kids safe this school year.

Bulging backpacks: Big backpacks bulging with books are "causing more injuries: neck, back, shoulders, knees even," Carr says. At least 14,000 children are treated each year for backpack-related injuries: "That's almost 80 for every single school day," she points out.

Experts say backpacks should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of your child's body weight. That means that a 50-pound kid's backpack should weigh no more than seven and a half pounds. Yet at St. Elizabeth School in Maryland, Rossen and Carr found kids lugging backpacks weighing 16, 19 and even 20 pounds.

TODAY
Jeff Rossen shows a child's backpack. Many are heavier than experts recommend.

Experts say it's not just how heavy a backpack is: The way your child wears it is important too. The top of the backpack shouldn't be lower than their shoulders, and the bottom shouldn't hang lower than 2 inches below their waist.

Sugary lunches: Doctors say children should have less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. But when some kids at St. Elizabeth revealed what was in their lunchboxes, Carr found lunches with 19, 24 and, in one case, more than 50 grams of added sugar: double the entire day's recommended intake in one lunchbox.

Emergency contact information: When Rossen asked young St. Elizabeth students for their home phone numbers, several were able to supply them. Others, however, did not know their own home phone numbers or addresses.

The principal of St. Elizabeth said that because of the Rossen Reports checklist, they're going to encourage kids to leave more books at school and will work with parents on emergency contact information.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.

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