New WW Weight Loss App for Kids and Teens Faces Backlash, Including Petitions for Removal

Jen Juneau

WW — a lifestyle program formerly known as Weight Watchers — is facing criticism after introducing its new weight loss program for kids and teens, called Kurbo by WW.

Kurbo’s mobile app launched on Aug. 13, with the goal of being “a trusted and powerful partner for families, as part of our mission to inspire healthy habits for real life, for everyone,” WW President and CEO Mindy Grossman said in a statement shared with PEOPLE at the time.

In the program, kids ages 8 and up are taught to choose foods using the Traffic Light System: Vegetables and fruits are all considered good choices, and colored green; yellow foods like lean proteins, whole grains and dairy are to be eaten mindfully and desserts and soda are red foods that should be limited.

WW acquired Kurbo in 2018 after the company’s initial attempts to launch a weight-loss program for teens was met with the criticism that the program was too much like a traditional diet and could be harmful to kids’ self-esteem. Kurbo has existed for several years and is scientifically backed, based on Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program.

But not everyone is on board with the new initiative. Multiple petitions have been launched on Change.org in an effort to get WW to remove the program.

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WW app for adults | Weight Watchers

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“Adolescence is a critical period of development and a window of vulnerability during which eating disorders can develop,” reads the petition, which had racked up over 85,000 signatures toward its goal of 150,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. “Pediatric eating [disorders] are more common than type 2 diabetes.”

“WW the decision to launch this app is dangerous, irresponsible and immoral,” it says. “It is time for you to put human lives over profit. 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.”

Another similar petition called for the company “to cancel the app and recognize that dieting behaviors in young people should not be encouraged due to the risks associated with their mental and physical health.”

“Any changes to a child’s lifestyle should be made with the supervision of a pediatrician, not an app,” it read.

Kurbo by WW combines a mobile app with tips and tricks for eating healthier and offers personal coaching over video chat and text. Aside from checking to see what colors their foods are, kids and teens are taught portion sizes and have the option to chat with their coaches on a regular basis.

“To change the health trajectory of the world, we have a tremendous opportunity, but also a responsibility, to help kids, teens and families,” Grossman said in her statement shared with PEOPLE.

Added WW’s Chief Scientific Officer Gary Foster, PhD, “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.”