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Youth Message Development

Program Description

The Youth Message Development (YMD) media-literacy curriculum aims to prevent adolescent substance use among 13- to 15-year-olds by increasing their knowledge of advertising techniques used to sell alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) products; developing their counter-arguing and critical-thinking skills in response to ATOD messages; and helping them actively apply these skills and techniques to create youth-driven, anti-ATOD messages. The curriculum content is grounded in media literacy and social–cognitive theories, and guided by experiential-learning principles. Youths learn about advertising and how it is designed to influence behavior, then critically analyze existing ads and produce their own counter-advertising ads. The activities are designed to be engaging and encourage collaborations and discussions among participants. The curriculum incorporates ads for generating discussion and analysis, activities to increase involvement, and small-group structure to facilitate learning from peers. 

The curriculum comprises four lessons with corresponding activities that focus on 1) media reach and persuasion strategies used by advertisers to sell ATOD products; 2) claims used in ATOD messages, and counterarguments used in anti-ATOD messages; 3) production techniques used by advertisers including setting, colors, font size, and object placement; and 4) the active application of content learned in lessons 1–3 to the development of a poster that includes an anti-substance use message. The four lessons can be taught in one, 90-minute session; separated across four, 20- to 25-minute sessions; or two, 45-minute lessons to groups of up to 30 students. Additional youth involvement and application can be encouraged by including optional activities (e.g., having youths locate advertisements that illustrate the concepts presented).  

Program Snapshot
Evidence Ratings
Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs About Substance Use
Program Contact
Kathryn Greene
4 Huntington Street 
New Brunswick, NJ


Dissemination/Implementation Contact
Michelle Miller-Day, Ph.D.
Co-President, REAL Prevention
420 Pinehurst Avenue 
Placentia, CA 92870


Program Type
Substance use disorder prevention


6-12 (Childhood)
13-17 (Adolescent)

Geographic Locations

School / Classroom

Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino

Implementation materials available