Are Heavy Backpacks Making Our Kids Fat?

Readers — I recently received this article ntsnisiddk
on backpack overload
and how it can hurt a kid’s back and posture.

While it gets rather amazingly detailed about how to correctly pack a pack, it does include this great advice:

  • Talk to the school about lightening the load. Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Team up with other parents to encourage changes.

I really do think that in addition to the whole parental fear of predators, one reason kids walk so much less to school is that backpacks are now often 10, 15 pounds, or even more. The problem, at least from what I’ve seen with my own kids, is the school demands a separate composition notebook for each class, on top of all the other books the kids have to bring back and forth. (Here in New York City, a lot of schools don’t have lockers).

Anyway, the problem becomes cyclical: Since so few kids are walking (about 11% do), schools can insist on a lot of stuff going back and forth. It’s such a burden that even kids who might’ve wanted to walk, don’t. It’s a far cry from the days of walking home a few miles with your few books in a book strap.

And may one more reason our kids are getting fatter along with their packs. -L.

And that’s just tonight’s English homework!

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100 Responses to Are Heavy Backpacks Making Our Kids Fat?

  1. Chris October 4, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    “Talk to the school . . . Team up with other parents to encourage changes.”


  2. Barb October 4, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    When I first moved to Phoenix my kids elementary school did it right, they didn’t have lockers so on the first day of school each kid got a complete set of books to take home and then in class there was a book at each desk, so they only had to carry books back and forth on the first and last day of school. It worked well.

  3. Laura October 4, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    At our elementary school I see more rolling ‘backpacks’ every year. My 3rd grader, who walks the three blocks by herself since 1st grade, has just asked for a rolling one this week. But, she only takes one hard bound text book home a week so we’ll wait until she really needs it before getting a rolling one.

  4. Karen October 4, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I just ordered a bigger backpack for my 7th grader. It’s not the books – it’s the binders.

    But we live 3 blocks from school, and they leave their bags in their lockers and go back for books and binders in between classes, so he doesn’t actually have to carry it that much.

  5. Warren October 4, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Watch at the schools during dismissal…..ooops sorry………during safely choreographed and monitored pick up. The kids for the most part are not even carrying their backpacks, the parents are.

    It takes some training at home, to get your kids to think before leaving school, so that they only bring home what they actually need. All too many bring it all home, so they cannot forget anything.

  6. marie October 4, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    When-I-was-your-age alert!

    We didn’t use backpacks at all and would have thought them some sissified. Not even bookstraps. We just carried our books, our binders, our papers. Most kids walked to school because getting a ride was only for the country kids.

    My teachers didn’t send home every single one of my school papers. If I wanted to take them home, that was my own decision. School work was school work and my mom didn’t need to see the vast majority of it. No one thought every little scribble was so adorable that parents needed to see them, too.

    I would guess that the same amount of paper/birthday party invitations/school forms got lost between school and home as gets lost now. If we stopped to play on the playground before going home, we weighted down our papers with a rock or two.

  7. Stephanie October 4, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    My kids’ school is started to get textbooks online or on CD for the kids to use at home. So much lighter, although the online one can be a problem if your internet goes down when you need to do your homework. It doesn’t help the kids who don’t have easy computer access at home, but my daughter likes it. So far it’s just the math book.

  8. Gary October 4, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    We had these ugly blue bookbags made of this vinyl/plastic-y substance with white handles that could been used as the ejection seat handle on an F/A-18.

    In high school you just kept them in your locker and took what you needed to each class.

    Maybe I’ll get TBH and TBA ALICE packs and let them use them instead.

  9. Jen October 4, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    My daughter went to a very academically advanced school. The supplies and books (for NINE subjects) barely fit into a full-sized backback, yet the school BANNED rolling backpacks.

  10. Jen October 4, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Oh and her high school doesn’t even have lockers…

  11. Roberta October 4, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    …except that in Germany, at least, kids are expected to carry ALL of their school materials all the time. Those backpacks are incredibly heavy, but they’re all better-constructed (and much more expensive; the standard elementary backpack is at least 80 Euros, but it’s expected to last from grades 1-4). And yet the kids there walk, cycle or bus all the time.

    Nope, not buying this connection. Although I would completely support lighter backpacks and fewer school supplies.

  12. vjhr October 4, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Ditto what Jen said–our kids carry a ton, and our school has banned rolling backpacks, too. WTH? Common sense is dead.

  13. Ravana October 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    This is not a new phenomenon. Worrying about it is. I walked to and from Jr. High with a full backpack (individual textbooks and binders required for each class) a trumpet, a trombone, and a guitar each day. My parents never once considered driving me, and I never thought to ask, because we only lived a little over a quarter mile from school.

  14. Megan W. October 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    As a teacher, I can also say that the fancy new text books are getting bigger and heavier each year. We just replaced our 20 year old books with a new version of the same book. It is almost twice as heavy. Sure is pretty. But Physics hasn’t changed that much.

  15. 20percentcooler October 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Hold on…I thought free range kids was about letting kids solve things on their own rather than having the parents take over. Couldn’t kids try and find another way in order to lighten the load? Like instead of taking home a whole workbook, rip out only the pages they’ll need. Using notes on paper to study as an alternative to bringing home a whole textbook. Cleaning out your backpack once a week (I remembeR finding A LOT of unnecessary garbage in my book bag at the end of each year. A weekly dump can get rid of extra weight.) And finishing homework at school – that way, you can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you need to take home less, but you’ll also have more time in the afternoon to do, oh I don’t know, free range exploring…?

  16. Scott October 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Everyone questions various small components of schooling that are troubling or problematic. Are back packs too heavy, is there too much or too little technology, are tests inhibiting learning or helping? It seems to me we are asking the wrong types of questions, focusing on the wrong issues, and that our responses are to always throw more money, more time, more of everything. We do this each year, adding bigger budgets, buying enough iPads for all students in an entire city etc. only to find that the kids today have more emotional, physical, and intellectual issues.

    Rather than trying to add on, modify, or make small demands of change to something broken (the school system), make the biggest demand there is – change the system completely. Look to unschooling or democratic education as to what this change could look like. There are more than a dozen Sudbury Schools across the nation where students face and learn from their own real issues, not the ones boxed up and presented neatly to them from core standards. Check out their websites and demand real systemic changes.

  17. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    It’s not as simple as teaching the kids not the carry stuff they don’t need. My daughter’s 15, she’s figured that out pretty well, but she stills carries way more at her age than I did, without having a heavier workload. I agree with Megan — the books have gotten heavier, and it’s not always because there’s more content to them. Plus, most of her teachers require her to have full-sized binders. She’s figured out how not to bring everything home even for the subjects she has homework in, (but since she has homework in most of the four classes she takes each day, every other night, that only helps so much) but that doesn’t solve the problem of being required to have all her materials with her in class each day, and there is not time to go to the locker between every class.

    It’s a little weak to make it causative of kids gaining weight since there are many other factors and many other ways for kids to get exercise, but kids’ backpacks getting heavier in ways that are not entirely beyond their control is a real thing.

  18. Lauramb October 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Yes, that’s a problem weight in elementary school. Middle and high? Not so much. At age 12, I stopped growing at 5’5″ and 150 pounds. 15 pounds is 10% body weight. The key is that I got saavy about what books and binders needed to go home and did a lot of my homework at school. We did have lockers.

    Also, I played softball and was a Girl Scout. Both of these activities helped me build muscles to carry my backpack. I went on a camping/backpacking trip when I was 11 and I never complained about my school backpack again.

    I should note: I think improper weight distribution of the backpack is so key. Also, it’s “cool” to use a messenger bag, giant purse, or loose strapped backpack, which doesn’t help with posture.

  19. Becky October 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    20percentcooler — I love having kids figure stuff out on their own, but certainly know when I was in school we 1) were not allowed to rip pages out of workbooks, 2) could not have done our homework AT school (when would you do that? I only had study hall a few times in grades 6-12) and 3) were not allowed to go to our lockers except at lunch so five textbooks — each about 300 pages and hardbound — had to be carried for the morning. It did actually cause me to have breathing problems — literally the backpack was hunching me over and making my asthma worse. As a kid I just sucked it up but as an adult I do see how some of the rules were kind of ridiculous (like not going to your locker between classes).

  20. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    I meant ways that are not entirely WITHIN their control, sorry.

    ” At age 12, I stopped growing at 5’5″ and 150 pounds. 15 pounds is 10% body weight. ”

    Lucky you. My daughter’s 15, 5’0″ and hits 85 after a big dinner. She might have some growing left, and maybe not. I don’t care how good your backpack is and how well distributed the bag is, walking around with that kind of weight is painful at that size. And I WISH it was consistently not more than 15 pounds.

  21. Lauramb October 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Clarification: I think that part of the back and posture issues with backpacks are kid induced, depending on what is considered “cool”. In my 12 years of school, this varied from wearing one strap to wearing non-backpack style bags.

    So yeah, I think it’s a weak link to say that backpacks have contributed to obesity.

  22. Lauramb October 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    @pentamom: yes, that would be very heavy at that weight and height! 🙁

  23. hineata October 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    @Pentamom – I feel your daughter’s pain, lol!! Midge just hit fourteen, at 4’7 and weighing 68 pounds. While she might have a bit of growth left we hope, she’s not complaining too much at the moment because it makes her the ideal cheerleader 🙂 .

    But anyway her size was a major reason why we opted to send her to the semi private girls’ school she goes to rather than my son’s perfectly good high school. She has a locker, and his school doesn’t. Many days, his bag will weigh two-thirds her body weight.

    Am not sure what really causes obesity, honestly. My kids are all lightweight – they tend to follow an Asian body type -and pretty active, but they eat an astonishing amount of junk food without putting on weight. Midge, for example, eats as many chippies as she can get away with and has weighed 67 pounds for the last year. So I think body type has to have a lot more to do with obesity than, say, backpacks.

  24. Rob October 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    A few years ago one of the schools my kids were going to tried to ban all backpacks except for clear ones. You know, because weapons.

    Seeing as clear backpacks are pretty uncommon (like, I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one), and the school didn’t even have enough lockers for every kid to have one, the uproar was swift and severe and they canceled that policy rather quickly.

    And, for the record, there was never a weapon found in a backpack, we just had a “Safety & Security Expert” whose job it was to constantly think “worst first”. She recently left the district and as far as I know has not been replaced.

  25. Donna October 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I agree with Ravana – it is not the load that has changed; it is that parents now worry about everything and coddle their children so that the same load is too much today.

  26. lollipoplover October 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I heard a statistic recently that backpacks cause 11,000 injuries a year. When I told this to my kids (who bike to school every day) they said, “What did the backpacks attack them or something?”

    We’ve never had a problem with this. My kids bike almost every day and know how to economize space and weight in their packs. One thing they do that’s really smart is to ask the teacher at the beginning of they year for extra (damaged) textbooks, if available (they usually are- some really beat up but that’s perfect-duct tape fixes them). I’m looking at the shelf in the kitchen that has the extra textbooks so my kids only have to transport the *soft* stuff. I’m glad we have cool teachers that come up with solutions and use resources wisely. My daughter’s used her extra textbooks several times this year to make copies of assignments for a sick classmate on her bike route. Other kids know to call her if they can’t get into school after hours and realize they forgot an assignment.

    I still can’t believe “Backpack Safety” is a thing.

  27. Leslie October 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Wow….your kids actually get books to bring home? My kids don’t have books for any of their classes. They looked at me like I was nuts when they wanted help with their homework and I asked to see their book. I thought that maybe that was just an elementary school thing but my middle schooler does not have any books either. He does however have the worlds largest binder that he has to carry all his supplies and notebooks in to every class. They are not allowed to carry their backpacks between classes and they have very limited time between classes to go to their lockers (meaning for all practical purposes they can go before and after lunch and at the beginning and end of school). The binder is so big it barely fits in his backpack with whatever book he is reading for LA and his music books for band. And this is not a small backpack – it is meant for college students to carry and has room for a laptop (which would not fit in with all of his stuff even if he had one).

  28. Andy October 4, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    @marie “We didn’t use backpacks at all and would have thought them some sissified. Not even bookstraps. We just carried our books, our binders, our papers.”

    That sounds extremly unpractical. How many books had you carry around? How did you protected books in rain?

    For me, backpacks are perfectly normal. I can not imagine having to carry everything in my hands along with cloth for PE or after school sport. That would be serously annoying.

    When I was young backpack had been recommended as healthier. The other alternative was to use bags, but those have been said to skew your spine.

    Anyway, I’m inclined to believe that books are getting heavier. They have way more pictures then then used to have and thus more pages for the same content. Plus, they seem to be printed on nicer but heavier paper.

  29. Donna October 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    @Andy – Practical or not backpacks were not used when I was a kid either. I didn’t get my 1st backpack until college. We carried all our books and notebooks in our arms.

  30. Athena October 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I hate to say it but I disagree with the idea that heavy backpacks are a causing children to stop walking and gain weight. Yes, backpacks are heavy, sometime unnecessarily so. Yes, fewer kids are walking today. The problem at my daughters elementary school is that children are banned from walking, even those living right across the street in the neighborhood the district refuses to bus because they are so close to the school. We also have a unique problem once winter sets in. The children are required to enter and leave the school in snow clothing, hat, mittens, scarf, and snow boots. If they do not have those items during the day they are not permitted on the playground, not that we have much left since they just tore down everything except 6 swings and a sand pit. If I added the snow clothes, school supplies and lunchbox together it would all outweigh and outmass my 6 year old daughter. I do believe that we should find a way to work with our children and school to find a way to minimize this burden on each child and to make physical activity more available.

  31. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Same here with the no backpacks before college. We used gym bags on days we had gym bags, but books and binders were carried in our arms. This made the smaller, unpopular kids the perfect target for the book-shove — where a mean kid came along and just pushed your books right out of your arms so they flew everywhere and people got to stand around and laugh while you picked them up out of a 10 square foot area.

    Also, in junior high, we actually had set times when were allowed to go to our lockers (once in the morning, once before or after lunch, and once at the end of the day, plus one extra time mid-morning for the 7th graders who had the most classes before lunch) and could not go at any other time. In high school there was more flexibility, but only so much as the time plus the route you had to follow to get from one class to another permitted. If you had to make it from one end of the school to another there was a chance you’d be late if you made a beeline, let alone stopping by a locker that was not on a direct route.

    It’s not just about coddling. I know for a fact I could not physically have handled what my daughter has to deal with (I was physically similar at her age) without injury, since I did walk to and from school when it wasn’t right on the way for one of my parents at that time, and she doesn’t have to. Our books were smaller on average and we were allowed to use less bulky methods for storing our notes, by most teachers.

  32. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Sorry, that’s “gym bags on the days we had gym class.”

  33. Michelle October 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    20percentcooler, you can’t expect kids to solve their own problems while at the same time taking away their options: no going to lockers between classes, separate full-sized binders required for each class, no flexible time at school when homework could be done, certain types of backpacks banned, etc. Giving kids back some of those options isn’t solving their problems for them so much as giving them the necessary freedom to do so themselves.

  34. lollipoplover October 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    “The problem at my daughters elementary school is that children are banned from walking, even those living right across the street in the neighborhood the district refuses to bus because they are so close to the school.”

    They can’t ban kids from walking! Those who live within non-busing distance don’t get bus service because the expectation is to walk or bike. How can they require you to drive? Our school cut bus service within 1.5 miles of the school. By no longer providing transportation, the school district has no power to decided how I get my kid to school.

  35. SKL October 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    A couple of my kids’ textbooks are extremely heavy. They must be lining the covers with lead or something.

    Thankfully they only need to bring them home when they are studying for a test.

    I remember having to lug books back and forth and like others have said, it was just part of being a student. (We walked about a mile each way every day, no matter the weather, including when the snow was knee-deep.) After I got home from jr/high school I delivered half of the town’s newspapers (on foot) every day. I also had the job of bringing in wood for the woodburning stove and doing all the laundry for a family of 8, among many other things. Needless to say I met the national standards for strength and stamina. 😉

    I think the main difference is that homework didn’t start until third grade in those days. Little kids simply played after school, or visited the library (voluntarily) and read. And I’m talking about private schools, with high academic standards.

  36. anonymous this time October 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I shudder looking at the way the kids wear backpacks these days: they seem to think that cinching up the straps to make the pack weight snug against the body is for sissies, I guess.

    So they have these ginormous packs swinging off their backs and halfway down the back of their thighs!

    My 7-year-old wanted to wear her pack this way (first off, her mom bought her a ridiculous, university-student-sized pack, and she’s the size of a 4-year-old) and we intervened to get her a proper-sized pack and cinch the straps properly.

    I do notice that in elementary school, IF a child walks, they’re nearly always with a parent, and then it is almost always the parent carrying the pack! Sheesh. Get your kid a proper pack, fit it correctly, and get THEM to wear it.

    In middle school, they carry their own packs, but with disastrous strap lengths.

  37. anonymous this time October 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I notice also in the hockey world, the 12-year-old players’ parents often carry their gear for them. WTH? If you can make the rep team, kid, you can carry your stuff!! My son is a goalie, and that sh*t is HEAVY. His bag is as big as I am. I let him deal with it. He’s a lot stronger than I am!

  38. Earth.W October 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Most Australian high schools do not have lockers which I think is a shame for it lessens the weight of the bag being carried by students. I lift the bag my only high school child has to carry and I struggle. This can only be damaging to a child’s spine causing all sorts of health troubles.

  39. Andy October 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    @Donna Interesting, I throught we are about the same age. Of course, we grew up in different school systems which might add another difference.

    The idea of carrying four books, four notebooks, PE dress and food for (how do you call the meal between breakfast and lunch?) plus whatever you need for after school activities seems weird to me.

    Still, what you used to do when it was raining? Are you able to stand in a bus while carrying all that in hands?

    I mean, this way you can not use spare moments for reading book or anything. You have to hold books all the time. I would at least put all that into a bag or something.

  40. Andy October 4, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    We did not had lockers, only a common place where you left shoes and jacket. Lockers would be cool :).

    On the other hand, we did not had to move much between different rooms. Teachers changed between classes, but we mostly stayed at one place.

    Breaks were used either for homework or for football with random soft item (slippers mostly) :).

  41. Kimberly October 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Not always the schools fault. I can’t believe how heavy some of my students’ backpacks are. But it isn’t school stuff. My students should have 1 worksheet in a folder (flyers on Wednesday) and 2 library books.

  42. Brandy October 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    I think they are also getting fatter because little kids who should be outside playing after school get too much homework and in school they get too little recess and physical education because of testing standards from No Child Gets Ahead, oops I mean No Child Left Behind.

  43. heather deitchman-levy October 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Oh Lenore, I usually love what you have to say but this one is a huuuuge stretch in logical reasoning.

  44. Ann October 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    What years are everyone talking about here, when you recall your backpack/no backpack experiences? From what I remember, backpacks weren’t the “thing” until something like 1982 (7th grade for me)when the cool kids starting carrying them from class to class, not leaving them in their lockers. We didn’t have a whole lot of book-taking-home so I did not need one, I had some kind of lame cloth “book bag”. I started high school still not taking one and was shocked that first day, managing a 2 city bus ride home, carrying a literal stack of books! My mom got me a real backpack that week. But I do wonder why these days books are getting heavier and heavier. My 5th grader’s math book is like 20 pounds. Why are they not making these in a paperback form? It would probably cost less for the school to purchase, as a bonus.

  45. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    “The idea of carrying four books, four notebooks, PE dress and food for (how do you call the meal between breakfast and lunch?) plus whatever you need for after school activities seems weird to me. ”

    American schools don’t, or at least didn’t in my time, have any such “meal.” Snacktime was only for the very youngest children (KG, maybe 1st grade) and was generally provided by parents bringing in food for the whole class in rotation.

    I graduated in ’83, and backpacks simply were NOT worn in school, in high school or junior high. When I was in elementary, some kids had book bags, plastic things that looked like miniature, child-colored briefcases, but those were going out of fashion even for the youngest kids, and if you carried those past a certain age you got made fun of.

  46. pentamom October 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    “Why are they not making these in a paperback form? It would probably cost less for the school to purchase, as a bonus.”

    There’s no way the covers on paperback books would stand up to being dragged back and forth to school in backpacks by careless kids, and the cost differential is probably not great enough to make up for having to replace a significant number of them every single year.

  47. Sherri October 4, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Our school district is replacing textbooks with iPads, so that should make the backpacks lighter. My middle schooler has a locker and they have a locker break scheduled every two periods. My elementary schooler keeps his things in his desk.

    We didn’t have backpacks when I was a kid at school either. We carried books in our arms for going from class to class, and we had vinyl Addidas bags to carry our gym clothes in. If it rained I remember wrapping my books in a plastic grocery bag.

  48. Beth October 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    I started high school in 1974, and backpacks became a thing somewhere around my sophomore year, if memory serves. They were only used to transport stuff back and forth from home though, and they stayed in our lockers all day. Before that, we carried everything in our arms; I also carried a cello a few days a week, so I thought the backpack was a great invention!

    And those days we wore them with slung over one shoulder. It was definitely NOT cool to wear it over both shoulders.

  49. Donna October 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Andy – We didn’t eat anything between breakfast and lunch beyond kindergarten unless it was a special occasion.

    We had 6 classes in high school so could potentially carry 6 books. However we had lockers so books were left behind if not needed.

    Our books were required to be covered so that gave some protection in the rain, otherwise they would just get wet. I never stood in a bus. I mostly walked to school until we moved to Georgia in 7th grade then I rode a school bus until old enough to drive myself.

  50. Donna October 4, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    I graduated high school in 1988. In college, we had backpacks – worn only on one shoulder – but not in high school. Odd thing is that the high school is in the same town as the university – the high school is surrounded by fraternity and sorority houses. The high schoolers usually copied everything the college kids did but not the backpack thing.

  51. Carla October 5, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    I don’t know about the effects on obesity, but I am in agreement that the backpacks need lightening up. My kids aren’t allowed to have rolling backpacks, and have only THREE MINUTES between classes. And just being in the room when the bell rings is not always considered enough–you are to be IN YOUR SEAT. This cuts down time for locker visits between classes considerably, meaning all class materials get carried in the backpack all day long. Last year, my oldest child weighed her pack and it was in excess of 20 pounds–no wonder her back and neck hurt at the end of the day!

  52. baby-paramedic October 5, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    My school bags weighed 15kgs on a good day. On some days it could get much heavier – and we had lockers! Weight wise it was probably on-par to carrying my oxygen cylinder, airway kit, medication bag, first aid kit and defib now.
    I much preferred when our school became a pilot school for one-child, one-laptop. Then all I had to carry to and from school for the academic side of things was a laptop!

  53. Andy October 5, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    @Donna We were supposed to have five meals per day, but two additional ones have been small (piece of bread and an apple). You would be considered bad parent if you would not send one with your kid until almost high school. Only some high schoolers continued to have additional meal then – and that was basically mostly kids that did a lot of sport.

    I got curious and did mini research on bags topic :).

    Seems like the kids here always used some kinds of bags, it is just that they become backpacks in time. Even pre WWII pictures from villages feature kids with bags. That is probably why I got surprised, we have no tradition of carrying a lot of stuff in hands.

    I still think it might have something to do with weather. We had to have protective stuff around books too, but they would still got destroyed more in wind and wet snow.

    We also never had school buses and carrying all those things in public transport during peek would be a disaster. It was not this full , but subjectively close.

    Which only reinforces my opinion that kids are going to grow up no matter how are various practical details of life solved.

  54. SKL October 5, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    We used backpacks in high school, but we were not allowed to lug them from class to class. They stayed in our lockers all day.

    Someone mentioned paperback books. These are in fact used in many countries; the parents have to buy them and the kids keep them. For whatever reasons, we don’t do that here.

    One wonders whether paperback would be more cost-effective, considering how often schools change their curricula. At least for the texts that get taken home regularly.

  55. LRothman October 5, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    20percenter: My son has a math book that is almost 3 inches thick. His history book is another 2.5 inches. Both teachers require 5 subject spiralbound notebooks (no just dumping a paper into a binder and leaving the binder at school) and give homework from the book on a regular basis. He has 45 minutes of study hall every OTHER day – in the morning before both those classes, so doing that homework at school isn’t an option (I would prefer to teach him NOT to count on having enough time to get it done at the last minute). He manages OK, but some of the kids look like they will topple over.

  56. Donna October 5, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Our kids’ backpacks are definitely not overloaded. I don’t even know if my child’s school has books. She brings home a paperback novel from book club, a small composition notebook, and an agenda (notebook to communicate with the teacher that every elementary school kid in the school district has). That’s it. She usually has a library book or two in there too but those are not really school books.

  57. J.T. Wenting October 5, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    “…except that in Germany, at least, kids are expected to carry ALL of their school materials all the time. Those backpacks are incredibly heavy, but they’re all better-constructed (and much more expensive; the standard elementary backpack is at least 80 Euros, but it’s expected to last from grades 1-4). And yet the kids there walk, cycle or bus all the time.”

    Not sure about now, but many European schools would not allow backpacks. Good old fashioned leather bookbags of 3-4mm thick stiff leather all around.
    And yes, filled with everything needed for the day, books, notes, pens and pencils, and a boxed lunch (no school meals in Germany or the Netherlands, though many schools have a cafetaria selling snacks and drinks).

    For your average 12 year old, that bag can weigh in at half her own weight, nobody cares about that.
    And yes, the kids are active. Most schoold during break time will have large piles of bags sitting in hallways, or kids leave them in the classroom.
    Time to go home? The bag is strapped on the back of a bicycle for trips of up to 20 miles or more (the age kids require book bags, no kid wants to be delivered and picked up by mommy or daddy, there are no school busses, and in many places public transportation isn’t conveniently located near schools). And oh, there’s no fear of kids being abducted by anyone and everyone who is male and under the age of death.

  58. Andy October 5, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    @J.T. Wenting “many European schools would not allow backpacks”

    Which country exactly?

    “Good old fashioned leather bookbags of 3-4mm thick stiff leather all around.”

    I googled bookbags and it seems to be a kind of backpack. What am I missing?

  59. Donna October 5, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I think a bookbag is more akin to a very large purse/pocketbook or a brief case with a strap you can wear across your body. It is not something you wear on your back.

  60. Papilio October 5, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    In primary school we only had a backpack for gym clothes (1x/week? Or twice??) and school swimming (1x/month). Homework?? Just a topography test every once in a while in 4-6th grade (1 A4 to carry home). Everything else stayed at school and after 15.15 the day was ours.
    7-9th grade causes the heaviest backpacks because those students have the most classes a day (~6). Research has shown that often the weight is not the problem, wearing it the wrong way is. I’d be very surprised if there were secondary schools without lockers, so the students can change books in the breaks (my school: 30 min at 11.00 (after 3rd period) and 20 min at 14.00 (after 6th period). I usually ate 1 sandwich in each break). They likely carry more to and from school, but the bikerack can carry the weight for them if needed. In my region the public bus would take over beyond a distance of 12 miles or so, depending on the village/countryroad the kids lived, and the age and preference of the child (cycling also means chatting with friends).
    No backpack sounds extremely unpractical to me too. I’m trying to imagine myself standing in our favorite break spot, holding a pile of books etc for the next three classes, while also holding a sandwich and something to drink. Going twice to the locker in one break was… undesirable in our crowded school. We didn’t leave our bags lying around though, it was always on our back or right beside us on the floor, except during science class and in the library, where they weren’t allowed.
    The tradition of schoolbags is very old in NL; they used to be made out of wood! Later there were leather bags, in my days not so long ago a simple Eastpak was the most popular.

    Re binders: isn’t the whole point of a binder that you can add empty sheets whereever you need them? My school understood that and thus asked 1 binder, with tabs, for all classes that required a binder. Demanding a separate binder for each class is several lightyears beyond ridiculous.

  61. SKL October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    When I was in primary school, my bookbag was a plastic thing with handles, similar to a shopping bag. They were too big and I would scrape mine on the ground until it had holes on the bottom, through which many pencils were lost. 😉

    Sometime around 3rd grade or so, bookbags were considered babyish and backpacks weren’t in style yet, so we carried our stuff in our hands. (We were walkers and lived a few blocks away from elementary school; ~a mile from high school.)

    I can’t remember when backpacks became cool – sometime between 8th and 11th grade I think.

  62. J.T. Wenting October 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    @Andy things like that.
    When I was in school (admittedly some decades ago) those were mandatory.
    Backpacks, cloth and plastic bags were prohibited.

    and yes, that’s a $275 bag, that weighs in at 3 lbs empty.

  63. Andy October 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    @J.T. Wenting Ok, thanks. My attempt to Google for bookbags shown plenty of bags like this

    They seem to be backpacks constructed so that books in them will not get destroyed.

    I tried “kinder gehen schule” and it seems that at least some schools allow backpacks now:

    Speaking of useless rules, we had to create lines in every page in every notebook in school. 1.5 cm from one side, 3cm from the other side. Manually, they have not been pre-printed back then.

  64. hineata October 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    @Andy – like your research, so did a little of my own – a wee journey into nostalgia LOL. I think bags are much more practical too, and we seem to have always had some form of them. Back in the thirties, through to Lord knows where (I know I had a cute little one for my lunch when I started school in the early seventies) children had cardboard suitcases. We got back packs by the time I’d started high school anyway.

    Weather probably plays a small part. It was, and is, highly impractical to carry books and papers around in your arms in my town anyway. Many days it was hard simply standing upright in the wind – carrying anything loose, forget about it. Unless you had time and energy to chase your homework to the edge of town, at which point you could wave goodbye to it as it headed south :-).

    Our town/area had no pollution of any kind – all our loose rubbish is probably somewhere down in Antarctica by now 🙂

  65. Jackal October 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I thought kids didn’t walk to school because it’s too far away for most kids at this point.

    I’m not walking 3.5 miles to school, thank you. I have a bicycle.

  66. Stacy October 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Our middle school now has all text books available online, so there’s never a need to carry them home, and they have lockers near their classes. Thank goodness, because I have petite kids too. I would guess that online text books will become more and more common and heavy backpacks will become a thing of the past, at least in suburban districts with lockers and computers in every home.

    I do think homework in grade school contributes to the lack of kids playing outside, especially in families shuttling between afterschool activities.

  67. pentamom October 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Donna, I don’t know how you can say “OUR kids’ backpacks are definitely not overloaded” just because you describe your own daughter’s situation, when many of us have described the opposite. Do you think we’re just making it up, or do you think 20+ pounds on a fairly typical day is reasonable?

    At my daughter’s school, some of the classes have “classroom sets” of books so that they’re allowed to take a copy home and keep it there, and a set to use in class, though that still doesn’t do a lot of good for study halls and the like. But that’s far from all classes, and this year I don’t believe she has any “leave at home” books at all.

    The reality is, some schools give their kids lots of heavy books plus lots of regular homework, and its HEAVY. Is it unbearable? No. Does it mean we have to coddle our kids so they shouldn’t have to do it? No. But neither is it all in our minds that at some schools, that haven’t greatly reduced or eliminated textbook use by various means, kids have to carry around lots of heavy books, including some books that are needlessly heavier than they were 25-30 years ago.

  68. Donna October 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Pentamom, by “our” I simply meant the kids at my daughter’s school, not kids in general. I do not, however, really believe that kids’ backpacks are substantially heavier today than they were when I was a kid (or would have been if I used a backpack). SOME kids backpacks may be heavier than SOME kids backpacks were in the past but if this blog alone teaches us anything, it is that almost nothing is consistent from city to city or state to state.

  69. Vanessa October 5, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    Backpacks were considered dorky and lame when I was in high school (1985-89), at least for girls. I had a 45-minute commute each way on public transit, and I usually carried my books and binders in my arms and had a shoulder bag for any personal stuff I needed (money, bus pass, etc.) When I got to college we all used standard Jansport backpacks.

    My daughter is in high school right now and has a staggering amount of stuff to carry, largely because of each teacher requiring a separate binder. They’re allowed to go to their lockers, but with only five minutes between classes there’s no time. She’s more than big and strong enough to handle the load, but I see a lot of younger/smaller kids struggling under the weight of their backpacks in the mornings. (I drop her off on my way to work, then she walks home on her own.)

  70. Katie October 6, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    To answer the question in the article I would say NO! What is making our kids fat is parents who drive them in the giant gas guzzler to school or even crazier to the bus stop even when it is just a block away. Not to mention as someone else mentioned these same helicopter parents will carry the back pack for them.

    These requirements are really not all that new. In high school, I lived over a mile from the highschool and had to have a full size three ring binder for each subject (except PE), had a textbook, and even had some huge ones -if you want to see a big textbook try AP art history!

    As to the original question to, it is great exercise to carry stuff as long as you carry it correctly. It’s called functional fitness and people pay trainers 70 dollars an hour for it. It is also all in how you carry the books. In fact, about 20-30 placed low in a backpack and walking over uneven surfaces was actually recommended as a cure for back pain in a very well researched book that I read.

    Not to mention they make backpacks for hiking that are huge if your kid can’t fit the books in the one that they have. Instead of Walmart or Target go to a store like REI or Hudson Trail Outfitters and get a better quality one.

  71. Nicole October 6, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    My school took away backpacks (except for to and from school). So we had to carry our 15+ lbs of books. Apparently they were afraid of school shootings or drug dealers or something. But you know what? The drug dealers were dealing from their pants pockets and their lockers. It ended up punishing kids who took the extra math, science, and humanities classes.

  72. Virginia October 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    I wonder if “backpack overload syndrome” isn’t at least partially a result of the popularity of backpacks? Day packs for school were just beginning to appear when I graduated from high school (1978), but I didn’t have one until I went to college. In high school I used a canvas book bag, basically a messenger bag with a single long (unpadded!) strap. And I can’t even remember what I used in junior high. I kept all my loose papers in a single large binder with pocket dividers, and used separate composition notebooks for note-taking. I don’t remember ever having a “binder check” in junior high or high school — whereas my high-school-aged kids have teachers checking their binders and deducting points if they’re not set up per teacher specifications. I think textbooks have also gotten bigger and heavier. And of course, with school funding cutbacks, kids have to bring more of their own school supplies than we had to back in the day.

    I don’t think anyone ever consciously thought about reducing students’ physical load when I was growing up — but it does seem like today, there’s an assumption that students have unlimited physical carrying capacity.

  73. Papilio October 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    “my high-school-aged kids have teachers checking their binders and deducting points if they’re not set up per teacher specifications”

    So putting everything in 1 binder leads to lower results??
    I’m shocked this kind of stupid nosy nonsense still happens in high school.

  74. Dano October 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Grammar school: No backpacks EVER! No lockers, books stored in your desk.

    K & 1st Grade: School Bus. Lunch box.

    2nd Grade: Bus too expensive, School didn’t allow us to ride bikes in this grade. Walked with lunch box and 3-ringed binder. 1 mile each way. If pouring rain, I would sometimes get a ride TO school, but never home. Jumped in every puddle when walking home in the rain.

    3rd grade: “Allowed” (by the school) to ride my bike. books and lunch box went in the wire basket in the front. If raining, getting a ride to school meant having to walk home. My choice. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions..

    4th Grade: Bike baskets and lunch boxes were for little kids. Dad had to remove the basket and install the much cooler (and less functional) rear fender spring loaded rack w/bungie cords for the 3-ring binder and books. They fell out a lot. Sack lunch now held in one hand while also on handle bars. Bungie cords always stayed with the bike.

    5th Grade: Same as 4th.

    Jr. High
    Walked all three years. Nobody used Backpacks. Not even girls.
    Three Ring Binders were for Elementary school kids. Pee Chee Folders were now the thing. One for each subject. We had lockers that we used between classes.

    High School: Walked all four years. Nobody used Backpacks. Not even girls.
    Sack Lunch and PeeChee Folders w/books under your arms. We had both class and gym lockers.

    College: Had to buy my first backpack!

  75. oncefallendotcom October 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    When children carry heavier books, their weight resistance increases, building muscle mass, and muscle mass burns more calories at rest because of higher metabolism. Thus, to claim the children are getting fatter because they carry heavier books (thus burning more calories) is a stupid idea.

  76. LadyTL October 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    There is also a class element to all this. Schools in poorer districts can’t afford Ipads or digital books and often the parent in those schools can’t afford alternate schooling or expensive well made bookbags. Also many of these schools are the types to load kids down with lots of homework with the books being taken home because of the lack of digital books or overcrowded classes which means homework has to make up the time the teacher can’t give. These are often the same schools where parents have to make up for the lack of school supplies so kids are having to haul back and forth all their supplies as well instead of leaving them at school.

    I can’t really say one way or another about it’s link to obesity since no studies have shown much a of a link but I can say from experience even with your backpack fitted properly, 15 lbs or more can be brutal on a long walk home. I regularly carried that much back and forth from school during middle and high school as well as from my libraries and I do have medical issues with my back and hips from it (doctor documented and everything).

  77. Kay October 7, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    I never understood this backpack obsession either and yet, we’ve been playing along with it. At my kid’s age, they aren’t carrying much in it. At times I’ve told them I don’t think you really need to have that backpack, just carry your folder and book. A couple of times, my oldest did just that.

    I’m with others here, it was simply not done when I went to school, we hand carried our binders and books. Whoever would have had a backpack would have been laughed at and probably called an egghead. I did in college, though, like some others have said, and yes, on one shoulder and it did help with the load walking across campus.

    My oldest just started middle school this year, so far he isn’t bringing home loads of text books. He says there aren’t many, mostly workbooks and papers so we haven’t experienced a backpack so heavy one cannot walk with it. At this point, the only time I have seen where a backpack was actually necessary was when they put their tennis shoes in it because they wore their snow boots to walk to school.

  78. SKL October 7, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Speaking of textbooks at home, I went on eBay and bought a copy of my kids’ textbooks that are not available online. My reasons had nothing to do with heavy backpacks, but I guess it could help with that if it was a big issue.

  79. Andy October 7, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    To those who say that heavy bag is good exercise for kids, no it is not. There is a limit on how much it is healthy to carry and whether kids reached it depends on local school system. Even adults have such limits btw.

    We do not encourage elementary school kids to do weight lifting on their own and the reason is that it does not do them much good. Their bodies did are not fully developed and tendons, bones and connective tissues are less robust.

    Carrying heavy backpack is closer to weight lifting then to anything else. Except that weight lifting exercises are designed not to damage you and to put the same load on both sides of your body.

    Of course kids can train their strength and it is good for them, but that should not be done with heavy weight.

  80. Andy October 7, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    @Kay I think I understand your kids, I used to take almost empty backpack with me too. Once you are used to backpacks, they are more comfortable then carrying even only one book in hands.

    Backpack is something you put on your back and forget about, so having an empty backpack is almost like having nothing with you.

    The fact that todays kids do not call each other egghead over bags or other irrelevant practical decisions is a good change I think. It is immature anyway, the sooner it stops the better.

  81. Donna October 7, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Andy, kids are getting called the 2013 version of “egghead” for any number of irrelevant decisions, just not bags. This particular change has nothing to do with a lack of childhood desire to insult anyone different and has everything to do with backpacks becoming fashionable.

  82. Andy October 7, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    @Donna No doubt about that. However, it still would be cool if they would be better then previous generation, no? I have no nostalgia for childhood ugliness.

    That being said, high school kids should have already outgrow calling each other egghead phase. They should be more mature then that.

  83. Buffy October 7, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    @oncefallendotcom, Lenore clearly states her opinion on a possible correlation between heavy backpacks and obesity: “…one reason kids walk so much less to school is that backpacks are now often 10, 15 pounds, or even more.”

    I don’t think anyone is saying that heavier backpacks alone = obesity. It’s the fact that heavy backpacks might = being driven to school more often.

  84. Jenna K. October 7, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    I was in 10th grade when I moved from one state to another. Where I came from, nobody wore a backpack during the school day. People carried backpacks or bags to and from school, but we returned to our lockers between every class. Girls carried purses. When I moved, on the first day of school at my new school, I noticed that everyone carried a backpack and no girls had purses. It was the fashion to carry your backpack with both straps too. So I traded my purse and carrying my books and stopping by my locker between every class for a backpack.

    My kids are in 5th, 3rd, 1st and kindergarten. They don’t bring textbooks home. We can access some of their textbooks online, but at this point, they rarely need them unless I need to look at them to reteach a concept from their homework worksheet.

  85. Jen (P.) October 7, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    **”There is also a class element to all this. Schools in poorer districts can’t afford Ipads or digital books and often the parent in those schools can’t afford alternate schooling or expensive well made bookbags.”**

    This sounds logical, but it is actually the opposite of what I’ve seen in practice. We live in a fairly affluent area, and the technology resources in my kids’ public schools lag behind those in lower income areas because schools purchase many of those gadgets with federal money that our district doesn’t get. My kids schools have a few iPads used for special ed and a handful of other classes (for instance, my junior high kid used an iPad for a personal finance class last year, but those stayed in the classroom). Most of those were purchased with money raised by the PTOs. The kids I know who have iPads or laptops provided by the school for their personal use are all in lower income areas.

    That said, we don’t have much of an issue with heavy backpacks anymore. Many textbooks are available on line, and my kids seem to be pretty savvy about finishing the homework that requires a heavy book at school so they don’t have to drag those books home very often.

  86. Eileen October 7, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    My kids just finished up HS. They never once in their 8 years combined got or used a locker (though the school is full of them). The school is too big and too crowded to make use of a locker (according to them). Since JRs/SRs can go off campus for lunch, they simply use their car trunks (or that of a friend) to store the books/clothes. They take their morning classes in with them, then swap them out for lunch.

    I had a pretty spread out HS (It started as a K-12 school WAY back and over time was enlarged with add’l bldgs, but remained a 1 story school). We used lockers all the time. We’d often “share” lockers with friends, so that we could keep certain books in a locker that was closer to a part of the campus. As a SR privilege, we had full length lockers that made it easy to keep uniforms or other bulky items too.

    Backpacks are way too heavy (and have been) but the association is really odd. Very limited numbers of kids can walk to school anyway. My kids would never have been able to walk to school their entire school careers no matter how light their backpacks were.

  87. LadyTL October 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    @Jen (P.) I understand but I was describing how it works in practice in my area as well. Alot of the schools in my area are on provisional accreditation or already had it removed and most of them have very clear budget issues when in poor areas. There is no poor kids with Ipads in my city. There just isn’t the money for it even with federal money.

  88. oncefallendotcom October 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Kids are not being drive to school because of heavy backpacks. They are driven to school because mother hens are worried about child abductors. We all know predatory creatures catch the slower kids. Haven’t you watched an episode of “Fast Animals, Slow Children” before?

  89. Kay October 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Andy, I was not condoning the name calling or that I would have myself, just saying what would have happened based on the culture and yes, that was high school and it would also be for the student with a pile of books under their arm at all times. Back then, it wasn’t necessary to carry every single text book with you and to home in learning the material but I think the ribbing stems from some thinking some students were overzealous.

    I won’t digress any further than that except that I think it is more stress on the back than to carry your books. I have heard of students having back problems because of the constant load on their back. I don’t think the school is thinking of the students’ health in that case.

    The only nostalgia here would be something that would have been laughed at has become a necessity based on how the schools have decided to structure our children’s education.

  90. Andy October 8, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    @Kay Sorry if sounded like I think you condone stupid name calling. I agree what you wrote in your last comment.

    The line between helicoptering and reasonable is not easy to guess without knowing the situation details and people jump into conclusions all too often. Protecting kids against having to walk 300 meters with two books in bag – helicoptering. Intervening when students start to have back pain at age of 17 – good thing maybe even a bit late.

  91. Donna October 8, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    “The only nostalgia here would be something that would have been laughed at has become a necessity based on how the schools have decided to structure our children’s education.”

    Backpacks haven’t become a necessity because of how schools have decided to structure education. Backpacks are simply now an acceptable fashion accessory. I have no doubt whatsoever that if backpacks became nerdy again tomorrow that the vast majority of kids would instantly stop carrying them regardless of how our education system is structured. They would find another way.

    It is like water bottles. When we were kids they (canteens anyway) were only used when you were going to be doing something strenuous or be out and about for a lengthy period of time and now nobody can leave the house for even a second without one. Our need for hydration has not shifted so dramatically in the last 30 years that we must sip water constantly or die. Water bottles have simply become a fashion accessory. If they stop being cool to carry around, we will go back to only having them when hydration is actually going to be an issue and not every 10 minute trip to the playground or car ride to the store.

  92. Andy October 8, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    @Donna I partially disagree. While fashion often does not follow the most practical solution, it tend to be sort of practical. What mass of people does is driven by practicalities too and often much more then we give them credit for. Kids are more likely to follow fashion that makes their life somewhat easier.

    In place like a school you mentioned, where kids have to take almost nothing, the fashion can turn anywhere. In places that require them to have many different and heavy things with them, the fashion will feature some sort of bag and the heavier stuff they have to have, the more likely it will be backpack or rolling bag.

    There was never a fashion of ice hockey playing kids taking stuff in hands or simple backpack. Too much equipment and too heavy. Such fashion might happen to swimmers or indoor climbers.

    As for water, there have been campaigns informing people about health and productivity benefits of drinking enough. I remember training instructions changing from “drink before and after do not disturb much by drinking during the training” to “drink as soon as you feel any need, it is more effective that way”. Fashion followed heath advice, not other way round.

  93. Donna October 8, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Andy –

    However, backpacks are still considered mandatory school attire by kids even in schools without loads meaning they are nothing more than fashion. My daughter has never carried a load larger than a paperback book and yet insists that she needs a backpack every year. Why? Because it is what is done and not having a backpack is bad. There is no need for ANY kid in her school to have a backpack. Her school is fairly anti-homework. Heck, they all carried them in A. Samoa and her school literally didn’t have books (they mold easily in the heat and humidity). There they were completely ridiculous since backpacks also mold easily in the heat and humidity, but they were considered a necessary part of school attire.

    And the fact is that, as many of us reported, backpacks were once very unfashionable. I often carried 4-5 books plus various notebooks home without a backpack and I would have never dreamed of wearing one no matter how practical it may have been. And the change was not gradual. It was not that kids slowly started to realize that backpacks were more comfortable. It was one year backpacks were nerdy and the next year they were the coolest thing ever. The education system did not change between say 1989 and 1990 to suddenly make backpacks make more sense. The fashion changed and backpack carrying followed suit.

    Now I don’t doubt that AFTER backpacks became fashionable kids said “wow these things are handy” which is why they haven’t gone out of style in the last 20 or so years. But the fashion came first and I don’t doubt that if they did go out of style for some reason, kids would instantly stop wearing them, practical or not.

    Same with water bottles. Yes, there were campaigns to hydrate better DURING TRAINING OR EXERCISE, but this need to have them with you every time you leave the house is pure fashion, nothing more. There has never been health advice that says “you must have water with you at all times even driving 10 minutes to the grocery store.”

  94. Andy October 8, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    @Donna I still disagree. If I would have a choice between being called egghead and considered to be dorky vs carrying four-five books in hand, them sure I would throw away backpack. I’m social animal like most humans.

    However, the moment it would start to be socially acceptable to wear backpack instead of four books in hand, I would choose that. Both of them being equally acceptable – I choose backpack – for practical reasons.

    The change does not have to be gradual. Practicality gives advantage to given choice and everybody jumping into new idea does not mean that their decision is not driven by practical considerations.

    Second, the example of your daughter proves only that backpacks in her school might be pure fashion. Having book in hand is only slightly less comfortable then in backpack. It does not prove that backpacks generally everywhere are fashion only.

    As with water, a.) I remember and meant general advice to drink more, not only training specific b.) it is a habit. Once I’m used to listen to my thirst, I listen to it also out of training. If I need to carry bottle with me three a week and I have backpack with me all the time anyway, taking water with me every day is a simple question of habit and no additional hustle.

  95. Donna October 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Andy – I’m confused. You admit that you would choose not to carry a backpack if it was unfashionable, even if it meant carrying 4-5 books in your hand, but then insist that the wearing of backpacks is not due to fashion.

    You seem to have the belief that something fashionable can not be practical. Lots of fashionable things are also practical, doesn’t mean that their use is not controlled totally by social norms.

    Backpacks existed long before their widespread use in schools. Books did not suddenly get heavier in 1990 than they were in 1989. Entire school districts didn’t suddenly decide over the summer that the nerds were onto something and rush out to buy backpacks. Somebody in social power had to determine that backpacks were fashionable before backpacks came to widespread use at schools. Their use remains in effect solely because the people in social power still find them fashionable (likely because they are practical). If the people in social power cease to find them fashionable and backpacks go back to being nerd-use only, their mass use would stop instantly.

    Practicality plays into the likelihood of the people in power continuing to view them as fashionable but would in no way control the instant loss of use if they become unpopular for some reason. That makes them a creature of fashion and not practicality.

  96. SKL October 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Water bottles are a whole nother helicopter pad, LOL.

    I went through my entire (very active and independent) childhood without ever using a water bottle. Of course, in those days, kids were allowed to go alone to places where we could find a drinking fountain. Imagine!

    When I was in Jr/Sr high school, they only gave us 3 minutes for switching classes, so nobody had time to go to the toilet. Even at lunch, you wouldn’t want to, because the toilet paper was such an awful product. Not long after I graduated, they took the doors off the bathroom stalls so kids felt less free to smoke. No way I was going to be “hydrating” myself all day. Nor do I ever send my kids with a water bottle, unless a program lists it as a requirement.

  97. Hellen October 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    My sons school backpack weighs more than the backpacking one he uses for weekend campouts with the boy scouts. I don’t worry wether he is capable of hiking and carrying the load since he practices 5 days a week hauling the school pack up and down all day.

  98. Andy October 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    @Donna “You admit that you would choose not to carry a backpack if it was unfashionable, even if it meant carrying 4-5 books in your hand”

    I admit that I would choose not to carry a backpack if it would cause other kids to ridicule me and bully me.

    If backpack is simply not fashionable, meaning that most kids do not wear one, then I would still carry one. If it is that just some small group of kids feeling snobby about backpacks and act arrogant about it, I would still wear backpack.

    That is something entirely different.

    I’m perfectly ok with not being fashionable and I’m very uncomfortable with being called egghead or dorky by most students.

    I was never “fashion” type. I was more “first non-offensive t-shirt I found” type.

  99. Andy October 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    @Donna Reading the part about “nerds” vs “people with social power”, I am very very very happy that what you write about does not match my experiences in school. It sounds like creating situation where that one snobby group somehow gets power over other students.

    It might be because we have been split to tracks based on performance or because kids here are split in stable small groups (classes) or because school does not provide afternoon extracurricular classes, I do not know.

    I’m really happy that by the time I reached high school, there was no special derogatory name for “nerds”. I did not had to care about this year fashion changes being so much important.

  100. marie October 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    I would not have predicted that this thread would still be active, but you’re all still here!

    Donna, I agree with your post, Tue Oct 8th 2013 at 10:02 am. Would be interesting to go back to movies and tv shows at the time backpacks came into fashion to see if there is an explanation–an inspiration for the fashion–in the popular culture.

    [Side story, but related: In my small-town high school, boys wore suits to the prom. Until the year one boy wore a tux. No one had worn one before him but the next year ALL the boys wore tuxes.]

    When my kids went to pre-school, they were required to carry a backpack. Not because they had anything heavy to carry, but because the teachers sent home every paper the child scribbled on during the day and no one wanted such precious artwork to be lost between the preschool door and the car door. I have a hunch that sending all the papers home was a way to keep the school tidy.

    Snacks and drinks? Oh my gosh. They are REQUIRED at any sports practice. Not just water from the hose but juice boxes or Gatorade! As if our tiny soccer stars are dehydrated from playing cluster-soccer. When I tried to discourage the snacks and drinks, I got uncomprehending looks from other parents who had forgotten that they used to play outside for hours without a parent waiting for them with snacks and drinks.