When WW released a weight loss app meant just for kids, its goal was to support children in building healthy lifestyle habits for controlling bodyweight throughout their lives. Though the intention sounds good on the surface, medical experts have called this application irresponsible. Health care professionals have said that a food-tracking program meant for children is simply a recipe for disaster.
What is the WW Weight Loss for Kids App?
The weight loss app for kids is called Kurbo. It applies the Traffic Light System developed by Stanford University researchers. That system sorts foods into green, yellow and red, just like a standard traffic light. The food categories are as follows:
- Green – These are healthy options such as vegetables and fruits. These are foods that can be consumed in quantity.
- Yellow – These are foods that can be quite nutritious but that should be eaten sparingly, such as healthy fats, whole grains, and others.
- Red – These foods are those that should typically be avoided or consumed on rare occasion. They are usually highly fatty and sugary with low or no nutritional density.
The Kurbo app is free to download and can expand on the benefits of subscription-based Kurbo coaches available at one-, three-, and six-month rates.
What did WW Say?
When the weight loss for kids app was first launched, WW released a statement saying: “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.”
The app’s creators cited a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) report that called childhood obesity one of the “most serious public health challenges of the 21st century”. Those researchers explained they used an approach rooted in science.
Health Care Professionals Warn Against a Weight Loss App for Kids
Health care professionals have voiced strong concerns in opposition to the use of an app geared toward weight loss for kids. Many cited various issues regarding the “good” and “bad” food mindset used in the app, which could harm a child’s relationship with their food. Moreover, they also pointed out that this can build early obsessive and fearful tendencies with eating.
In Canada, where the app is also available, a coalition of eating disorder clinicians, health care professionals and dietitians called the weight loss app for kids a dangerous tool aimed at users at a vulnerable age. They stated that rewarding food restrictions and gamifying lifestyle habits can be harmful to children, particularly when they are already vulnerable to eating disorders.