Weight Watchers is in hot water after launching a weight loss mobile app for kids and young teens. Critics are fuming that the app could encourage eating disorders.

The Kurbo App was released on 13 August by WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers before it rebranded in 2018) and is described as “a scientifically-proven behaviour change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight.” The app is intended to track food consumption, physical activity, and weight loss in kids.

The healthy-eating organisation has said that it created the app based on Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program that helps young people to “make lifestyle changes while receiving guidance around sustainable healthy eating, physical activity and mindfulness habits,” as reported in the New York Post.

WW may have had good intentions but parents are not happy, saying that the app may encourage kids to develop eating disorders.

This App Could Kill

A petition has been created on Change.org to pull the app. and has received more than 91,000 signatures.

“At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.,” the petition reads. “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. This app will literally kill people.”

“Adolescence is a critical period of development and a window of vulnerability during which eating disorders can develop,” states the petition. Families are advised “to steer clear of weight talk, and instead focus on emphasizing healthy lifestyles.”

The petition’s organisers have described WW’s decision to launch the app “dangerous, irresponsible and immoral.” “You must pull this app and save thousands of children from developing and supporting life altering eating disorders that will eventually kill some of them.”

“Holistic, Rewarding & Inspirational”

Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, said the app helps target “the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.”

“Alongside a distinguished group of leaders in pediatric health and nutrition, we’ve carefully developed this platform to be holistic, rewarding and inspirational so kids, teens and families get the tools and guidance they need to manage their environment and build and sustain healthy habits,” he said.

However, worryingly, Foster has confirmed to The Atlantic that warnings about a child losing weight too quickly or eating too little—behaviors that may indicate the onset of an eating disorder—are only available to those who sign up for the app’s optional one-on-one coaching service, which starts at $70 for a one-month plan.

Trigger For Eating Disorders

Natalie Muth, a pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, is concerned that Kurbo may be dangerous for kids. “Children are not ‘little adults’ and the approaches that may ‘work’ for adults, such as weight-loss goals, are not appropriate for children most of the time,” she says. “Interventions that focus on weight as the main target can trigger disordered eating patterns, low confidence and self-esteem when goals are not met, and an unhealthy preoccupation with looking a certain way.”

We think society is obsessed enough about weight – it’s certainly unnecessary to introduce such apps to young children. Parents should be emphasising healthy eating practices rather than being concerned about what it says on the scale.

Do you think this new app is good or bad? Tell us in the comments below.


  • More research in this field needs to be done before ever planting something out there like this. It could have negative effects instead of positive.

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  • I have concerns about this sort of app.

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  • What is the world coming to? This will just be another reason to add to the pile long list of reasons that kids will not feel comfortable in their own skin.

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  • i dont think the kids need it …sure is something for parents in it! but not the kids!

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  • The app is such a bad idea, adults get caught up in eating disorders with these types of things, how are kids supposed to cope

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  • Obesity is definitely an issue across all age ranges but I don’t think an app is appropriate for young children. They need supervision and understanding of the problems, not be encouraged to follow an app and do their own thing – that could definitely cause bigger issues.

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  • I agree that the emphasis should be on a more healthy lifestyle. Obesity worldwide and obesity in children is certainly a problem, I just don’t think that WW is the organisation who should address this other then with promoting a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating. Weight loss for children should happen under guidance from professionals like a pediatrician who can refer to a dietician.
    Besides this I question if the WW diet is such a healthy diet.

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  • I think it’s targeted to kids with obesity and obesity in children is a major problem if untreated it can lead to major health issues at such a young age

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  • I wish the focus was more on healthy eating and treating yourself well with good nutrition

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  • If we think obesity doesn’t exist, we are being ignorant. It isn’t to shame kids

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  • There is clearly an obesity problem across many age groups. I think being overweight can be detrimental to a child’s self esteem.

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  • You are never too young to learn how to eat healthily and look after yourself.

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  • I’m not keen on the idea, but there’s no doubt obesity is a problem for many kids.

    Reply

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