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Weight Watchers has a ‘healthy eating’ app for kids. Here’s why it’s causing backlash

The app raises questions about body image among children and teens.

The app raises questions about body image among children and teens.
Screenshot, Kurbo

SALT LAKE CITY — WW, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, is under fire for its new free app aimed at children and teens, according to Insider.

The app, called Kurbo Health, uses research from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control program to help children with their weight problems and develop healthy eating habits.

However, the app has received heavy backlash for its marketing campaign and functionality, as health experts, parents and general users say that diets for children can cause body image issues and eating disorders, according to Business Insider.

Here’s how the app works: Users track the food they eat by using a “traffic light” system inside the app. Foods considered good to eat glow in green, while foods that should be eaten in moderation appear yellow. The bad foods, like soda and candy, appear as red.

The app helps children identify which foods they should eat in order to maintain a happy lifestyle. Using rewards, the app will help children identify those foods and continue to eat them, according to TechCrunch.

Gary Foster, chief science officer at WW, said the app is intended to curb childhood obesity.

“There is good data that children are not likely to grow out of it and overweight people who have been since childhood have more medical problems,” he told Insider.

But the app has drawn criticism, too.

“We know that dieting for children is not healthy,” said Heather Gallivan, clinical director at Melrose Center, according to WCCO. “I think it is challenging on how to approach that with children and adolescents. You have to be really careful about how you talk about these things and the messages you’re sending.”

Chevese Turner, chief policy and strategy officer for the National Eating Disorders Association, told Eater that the app could have a negative impact and be counterproductive to the app’s original goal.

Since the red light effect will associate bad foods with doing something wrong, children might feel guilty about eating those foods, creating a toxic association between those sugary foods and their guilt.

“For any kid who’s been on a diet before or has experienced calorie counting, which many of them are taught in school, they’re going to be able to recognize that a piece of cake is probably going to have more calories than an apple,” she said.