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ABCs of Backpack Safety

With schools resuming all across the nation, most kids will be wearing incredibly heavy backpacks.

Last year, more than 8,000 Americans went to the emergency rooms due to backpack-related injuries.

On "The Early Show" Monday, Dr. Alanna Levine, of the American Academy of Pediatrics described how to wear a backpack correctly, and appropriate weight limits.

She says wearing backpacks incorrectly or carrying too much in them can cause strained muscles in the neck and back, resulting in neck, back and shoulder pain.

Parents should look for lightweight bags with wide, padded shoulder straps, Levine says, adding that backpacks should rest evenly on the middle of the back, and shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow children to take them off without difficulty. Youngsters should wear both shoulder straps -- it might not be cool, but it will save them some pain and take the pressure off any one side. Straps shouldn't be too loose or extend below the lower back.

To avoid starting or worsening back or neck problems, it might be a good idea to get two sets of books, if you can afford to, one for school, one for home, Levine recommends that older kids take frequent trips to their lockers, so they're not carrying a heavy load throughout the day.

If the school permits rolling backpacks (though some hallways aren't wide enough to accommodate them), Levine suggests using them.

Backpacks should be no more than 10-20 percent of a child's total body weight.

When picking backpacks up, kids should bend at the knees, not the back.

Levin also pointed out that parents shouldn't put a child's name on the outside of a backpack, for safety reasons: When the child is walking home from school, you don't want a predator to be able to call him or her by name.

She also recommends that parents put kids' contact information somewhere in the bag, just in case anything happens to them.

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