GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — WW, the re-branded Weight Watchers, recently released an app for children called Kurbo.
Kurbo launched last month. It’s a free weight loss and nutrition app for kids ages eight to 17 years old. The controversy surrounding the app has to do with the obvious question being, should children be dieting?
Ever since the app was released, thousands have taken to social media drawing outrage. The argument being the app could potentially cause unhealthy eating habits and body shaming. While others said, the app is a tool to motivate kids struggling with their weight.
Kurbo is similar to other diet or weight loss apps.
First, the user would enter their height, weight, age, and weight loss goals then log what they eat.
The app ranks food submitted in the log by using a “traffic-light” system developed at Stanford University.
Green items are “go foods,” yellow items should be consumed in moderation, and red foods should make kids “stop” or “think” before eating.
“It puts a lot of foods that I recommend to kids and adults all the time, like avocados,” said Jessi Holden, a registered dietitian at Mary Free Bed. ” They have a lot of healthy fats and nutrients in them, yet they’re in the red category.”
The app also offers video coaching for kids for a fee of $69 a month. The coaches are there to guide kids through the app, they can also pick up on signs of kids portraying unhealthy weight less or an eating disorder.
Kurbo is easy enough for children to use and understand, but exactly how kids understand it is what’s causing concern among parents and professionals.
Pine Rest Clinical Therapist Kelly Boprie told News 8 as a child using the app, when logging food and seeing the “red light” come up, they interpret it as a food they should no longer be eating.
Another concern from professionals is the preoccupation with food that is happening when kids use the app.
Boprie said it can lead to an over focus on body image or something worse.
“With most of my clients who I see who do have an eating disorder, it all starts with cutting out food groups or dieting,” said Boprie. “That’s just a dangerous slope to be targeting for this age group.”
News 8 reached out to WW for a statement on their app, and the concerns from parents addressed above.
The company responded with “Weight Watchers says Kurbo focuses on behavior change for healthier eating and more activity, not dieting or calorie counting.”