10 Things Wrong With Kurbo - Weight Watchers' Weight & Food Tracking App For Kids
Earlier this week WW (formerly Weight Watchers) announced their new free weight and food tracking app for kids called Kurbo. This comes months after their original plans to offer free teen memberships last February. Those original plans were met with criticism and concerns from experts including our team at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center. They ultimately never launched the free teen program, but are now targeting kids as young as 8 years old to use their Kurbo app.
Wondering what is so wrong about this seemingly helpful app? Read 10 things wrong with Kurbo below.
PS - If you want to speak out against Kurbo and WW, join our #WakeUpWeightWatchers Twitter Takeover!
1. Kurbo targets vulnerable children between the ages of 8-17
Whether or not you agree with children dieting (we hope you don’t!), companies like WW should not be marketing and targeting children as young as 8 years old to use their programs. And yes, we’ve heard they’re now a “wellness company.” But would a wellness company ask an 8 year old if their main goal to use the app is to lose weight? Probably not. Not to mention you only need an adult to sign you up if you are younger than 13 years old. And of course, like many apps, there is no way for them to verify how old someone is during the registration process
2. Kurbo normalizes an obsession with food and weight
After downloading it to see what all the buzz was about, we quickly learned the app immediately asks for weight and height to be entered. Even if a child signed up and didn’t want the emphasis on their weight, there is no way to skip this part of the sign up process. Again, if we aren’t focused on weight, why are we asking for that date? Kurbo has push notifications that remind you every night at 8pm to record your meals, snacks and exercise from the day. Is this how we want our kids ending their day?
3. Kurbo promotes the idea that food is either good or bad with their “stop light” approach
Although there are no points or calories involved, Kurbo relies on the “stop light” approach which assigns foods as either a red, yellow or green light. While messing with the app you’ll quickly learn that all veggies and fruit (except for a few!) are green lights. Virtually every other food is yellow or red. Assigning colors to foods reaffirms the toxic idea that foods are either “good” or “bad.”
4. Kurbo promotes the idea that confidence is dependent on body size and/or weight
Most of, if not all, the success stories featured on the app and Kurbo website mention that “X” kid felt bad/insecure/different etc. than their peers. It later mentions how the app, weight loss, and their new body changed how they now feel and view themselves. Telling young children that confidence is found in a smaller body is dangerous and can trigger disordered eating behaviors and full-blown eating disorders in those who are predisposed.
5. Kurbo promotes the idea that weight is the sole indicator of health
Throughout the Kurbo app, website and advertisements, Kurbo promotes weight loss as the main benefit for the kids using it. If WW wasn’t all about weight anymore, why are we using the amount of lbs and ‘BMI points’ lost as the selling point?
6. Kurbo has no medical clearance process for kids to sign up
WW claims to need medical clearance for teens to participate in their program and meetings. With this app, there is no medical clearance or eating disorder screening required. This puts children that are presently or have previously struggled with disordered eating behaviors at risk.
7. Kurbo coaches are not required to have a degree in evidence-based dietetics
Although Kurbo says that their coaches are required to do trainings, it is unclear what credentials these coaches have. And more importantly, what that training entails. Children actively making behavior changes around food and movement should be monitored and engaged with certified medical professionals and registered dietitians.
8. Kurbo targets children that are prepubescent and going through puberty
It is important to remember that the age of kids Kurbo is targeting (8 to 17) are children that are either prepubescent or going through puberty. During this time children between the ages of 11 and 14 typically gain on average between 30 to 40 pounds. Sometimes, 30 or more in one year.
9. Kurbo promotes the idea that parents happiness/proudness is derived from accomplishments around weight
One of the most horrifying aspects of Kurbo is the option to select “Make Parents Happy” as one’s main motivation for using the app. No 8-17 year old needs to feel the pressure that their parents happiness and proudness stems from their accomplishments around weight.
10. Kurbo used and shares before and after photos
The one thing everyone should be heartbroken about: the use of before and after photos. Whether or not you think before and after photos for adults are damaging and toxic (we think they are!), we hope you can agree that no child should be subjected to seeing their own or another kids before and after photos. This promotes the idea that their are “good” and “bad” bodies, and that smaller is better. Body image struggles are not uncommon for kids between the ages of 8-17, why give them another reason to feel bad about themselves?
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