There is usually a great deal of difference between the backpack that your child and your doctor would pick out. Don’t just choose the backpack that is the “coolest” it may also be the worst. Make sure that the backpack has the option for two shoulder carrying and that the straps are wide enough not to cut into the shoulders, has moderate padding in the back, and fits the child…that’s right not all packs fit all.
Ideally the pack should have belts that strap around the hips and chest for extra support. Multiple compartments allow for equal weight distribution and items do not get (as) lost or broken. Bright colors and any type of reflective material will make the child easier to see in low light. Another very important issue is trying to get the child to wear the pack in an appropriate manner, as with shoes the best pack worn loose or wrong can cause problems. Slinging it over one shoulder can cause muscle imbalance, strains, bruises, and shoulder dysfunction, arm or hand tingling or poor circulation, and low back pain.
Do your best to encourage the pack to be worn over both shoulders with the straps pulled tight enough to hold the pack high and tight to the back and not low and swinging near their rear-end. If available the waist and chest horizontal straps should be clipped whenever wearing for extended times (5 min or more). The child also needs to be aware that the heavier the pack and the looser it is worn the more their balance will be effected, thus increasing the chance of a fall.
Another way to decrease the chance of injury from backpack use is to reduce the weight of the contents. The weight of books and papers required for the current student has increased dramatically. This does not mean they should not be bringing homework home. However, the amount of extra weight can be reduced, this may include electronic devices, toys,…hopefully not weapons, food, beautification devices, etc.
The best advice is to follow these guidelines and have the child actually try the pack on before buying. Then you can compare the style with the safety and do your best to pick one the makes everyone happy. And my personal choice is to buy a backpack that is the best fit and most supportive regardless of looks and then have the child pick out buttons, patches or iron-ons and you can make the pack “their” ideal pack and it will be guaranteed that no one else will have one like it… best of both worlds!