REAL media Health Program

real media

Brief Program Description

REAL media is the web-based version of the evidence-based program Youth Message Development.

REAL media is a five-lesson, e-learning curriculum 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;
  • helping them apply these skills and techniques to create youth-driven,
    anti-substance use messages.

REAL media is grounded in media literacy and social-cognitive theories, and guided by experiential-learning principles. The activities are designed to be engaging and challenging. They encourage students to reflect and offer their thoughts via open-ended questions as well as quizzes and optional depth sections where students can further explore their interests. Each level ends with an interactive challenge that allows participants to apply new skills.

Specific Outcomes

REAL media is a digital adaptation of the face-to-face Youth Message Development (YMD) program that receives a rating of EFFECTIVE on a variety of evidence-based programs registries including NREPP.

Evaluation studies demonstrate that YMD:

  • reduces pro-drug attitudes
  • reduces intentions to use drugs
  • increases ability to resist pressure to use
Youth life skills program
Program Details
Type of Program: Prevention
Audience Size: Minimum 1/NO Maximum
# of Lessons: 5
Length of Sessions: 15-25 minutes for Levels 1-4, unlimited for Level 5
Frequency of Implementation: Levels are self-paced. We recommend giving youth 1-2 weeks to
complete Levels 1-4, and an additional 1-2 weeks to complete
Level 5 and create their messages.
Duration of Implementation (in weeks) 2-4
Recommended intervention site (school,
community, both)
School and Community
Audience Characteristics
Age Range Youth ages 13-15
Grade 8 – 10 Grade
Gender Both Male & Female

To learn more about the REAL media program, watch this video!

How it Works

REAL media consists of five levels (lessons) that focus on the following topics:

LEVEL -1 An introduction to media and advertising with content on costs and ethics
LEVEL -2 Media reach and persuasion strategies used by advertisers to sell ATOD products
LEVEL -3 Claims used in ATOD messages and counterarguments used in anti-ATOD messages
LEVEL -4 Production techniques used by advertisers including setting, colors, font size, and object placement
LEVEL -5 The active application of content learned in lessons 1-4 to the development of a poster or 30-second video that includes an anti-substance use message

Flexible Implementation! The lessons are short (20-25 minutes each) and self-paced. The flexible format allows levels to be completed individually or via group sessions in one or more sittings. They do require computer access for each participant and an internet connection that can support the number of individuals in the group or the individual on a personal computer. Optimal delivery is student individual use in class or as an assignment; however, a teacher-led option is also available.

Keepin it real How it works

Required Materials

REAL media includes:

Youth access to online platform, including interactive games, audio walkthrough, and challenges. Access code to online program, Access code obtained through REAL Prevention


  • $5.00 per student

Teacher only license:

  • Fewer than 100 students: $350
  • 101 – 150 students = $500
  • 151 – 300 students = $800
  • More than 300 students = $1500


The second day of a 2-day training focuses on participants teaching mock lessons and receiving feedback.

  • Cost: Video Conference Remote Training: $800; 1-Day On-site Training: $2,000 plus travel
  • Min/Max Number of training participants: Video Conference Remote Training: Minimum 1; Maximum 2 ; On-site Training: Minimum 3; Maximum 35

Additional Information


SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) YMD Profile:

National Health Education Standards and REAL media:

Program Contact

Training, Program Information, & Materials Contact: