Body Armor For Kids – Real Protection Or False Sense of Security?

By Scott Burton


If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have become aware that some companies are now adding protective ballistic panels to backpacks and children’s clothing.  Manufacturers in the U.S. and South America have seen demand for kid’s clothes fitted with ballistic panels surge in the wake of mass shootings like those at the Aurora Theater in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 7 adults and 20 children were killed by an attacker armed with a 5.62mm assault rifle.


The engineers designing tactical and bulletproof vest suggest there may be sound technical reasons to question both the ethics and functionality of such products.  The engineering challenges to get backpacks and body armor made in kid sizes to work properly are significant; it’s not as easy as sewing a ballistic panel into a jacket or backpack and expecting it to stop bullets.


Body armor and bulletproof vests work not so much by stopping a bullet’s penetration as by distributing the energy of the bullet away from the impact area.  Therefore, when it comes to  body armor, size matters.  Clothing in children’s sizes has a very small area to disburse the energy of a bullet, particularly very powerful rounds like .357 and .44 magnums.


Backpacks fitted with Level IIIA ballistic panels would not have stopped a 5.62mm round like the one the assailant fired at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The backpack manufacturers skirt this argument by suggesting that some armor is better than none at all, but if the armor causes the bullet to fragment and spall, the damage to a body can still be significant and the trauma can be spread over a wider area.


Another factor that goes into body armor is the fit and design.  To be effective body armor has to fit properly and be secured according to the manufacturers instructions.  Anyone who has children knows it’s a constant challenge to get them to wear decent clothing in the first place, let alone keep it buttoned up properly.


Body armor also has to be worn by the person at the time it’s needed.  During most of the school day a child’s jacket and backpack would be hanging in their school locker where it does them no good in the event of a shooting incident.  Even if the backpack were in the room with them, having the presence of mind to grab it and present it as an effective shield in time would carry an unfortunately low probability of success.


Still another aspect to consider is the psychological factor.  If kids know they have ballistic panels in their clothing they may be tempted to think they’re bulletproof and stand their ground when running away or hiding would be the better option.  The only knowledge about body armor most young people have comes from movies and television which rarely presents a realistic portrayal.


It’s easy to understand the concern that drives parents to consider backpacks and clothing fitted with ballistic panels, but many engineers of ballistic armor strongly believe that such products do little beyond providing a false sense of security for parents and children alike.  A better strategy might be training your children to react properly in the event a shooting situation ever does occur and how to use everyday objects around them as cover.  If a shooting ever did take place, the desk they’re sitting at may well be a better defense than the armored backpack hanging in their locker.

Post time: Apr-06-2016