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Weight Watchers Faces Backlash for New App Targeted Towards Children

The brand, which now calls itself WW, launched new app Kurbo designed for kids as young as age eight.

Would you let your child download a dieting app before they’ve even lost all their baby teeth? In an effort to combat childhood and adolescent obesity, Weight Watchers recently acquired an app designed by Stanford University’s pediatric program that is geared toward kids ages 8 to 17. The app itself, Kurbo, is free, but users can interface with a digital coach for a fee starting at $69 per month. 

WW’s Chief Scientific Officer Gary Foster told CNBC, “This is a scientifically proven way to get kids to eat healthier and move more, so we’re excited to get it into as many hands as possible,” but not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Kurbo has faced backlash from nutritionists who are concerned about the psychological impact that food restriction could have on children during such a formative period. 

Weight loss and nutrition are already sensitive subjects, and Kurbo’s specific focus on children makes it conceptually much more dubious. While the app’s intentions may be good-natured, some of the features are notably cringe-worthy, including a goal option to “make parents happy.” Kurbo also claims that the solutions it offers are “science-based” while coaches are not necessarily pediatricians, psychiatrists or nutritionists but rather people with backgrounds in management, economics and communications. 

While other boutique fitness or weight-loss and healthcare franchise concepts are on the rise, WW seems to have suffered in spite of a recent rebrand. The launch of this latest app could be a pivot towards new growth, but it currently looks like a misstep that could sour the brand’s reputation. Read the full story here.