Announcing We Think Twice: A Youth-Centered Social Media Campaign Empowering Youth to Achieve Optimal Behavior
In July 2019, the Administration for Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) launched the We Think Twice campaign. We Think Twice is a youth-centered social media campaign designed for U.S. teens ages 13–19. The campaign promotes healthy decisions and behaviors that help teens achieve optimal health and successfully transition to adulthood.
Today’s young people are making healthier decisions than previous generations did. Fewer U.S. high school students are having sex (the lowest percentage since 1991)1, engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners, or using selected illicit drugs.2 In addition, the U.S. teen birth rate has steadily declined over the past quarter century, reaching historic lows.3
Despite the encouraging story these data tell, there is still room for improvement. Teens often overestimate sexual activity among their peers and peers norms are a consistent predictor of teens own engagement in sexual risk behavior.4–8 The developing adolescent brain, combined with environmental and situational factors, can leave young people unprepared for the possible risks and unanticipated outcomes of sexual activity, including negative social and emotional effects; unintended pregnancy and teen parenthood; sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS; and challenges attending or finishing school. 5,7 These consequences may contribute to potential future risks such as poverty and economic hardship if youth do not complete their education and obtain low paying employment.8,9
A Part of the Solution
Given the overestimation of perceived sexual activity among peers and its influence on sexual behavior, FYSB and OASH have partnered to launch We Think Twice. The campaign aims to shift perceptions and help teens resist peer pressure by building their knowledge and skills to form healthy relationships, set goals for the future, and feel empowered in their decision to delay sex.
Key Messages for the Target Audience
The campaign name and tagline, “We Think Twice: Because Our Future Matters,” encourage teens to think about their goals and future first before engaging in risky behaviors such as sexual activity, drinking, or drugs. The campaign includes messages that are grounded in evidence and an integrated behavior change theory and were tested and refined with teens. The categories of messages include:
- Setting goals demonstrates how setting short- and long-term goals, and action plans to achieve them, can help teens focus on their well-being and avoid distractions such as sexual activity, unhealthy relationships, drinking, or drugs.
- Planning for their future communicates that finishing high school and finding a job before having a child or more children will help teens avoid poverty in adulthood and build the future they want.10
- Forming healthy relationships shows teens that healthy relationships with peers, romantic partners, and trusted adults should encourage them to be their best selves — not pressure them into sex or other activities.
- Correcting social norms uses credible data to dispel the misconception that most high schoolers are having sex, drinking, or abusing other substances.
- Avoiding sexual risks emphasizes the fact that the only 100% effective way to prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancy is to not have sex and promotes informed decision-making by providing complete and accurate information and resources regarding sexual risks.
Campaign Approach: With Teens, For Teens
We Think Twice is grounded in research and driven by teen voices. The campaign team has conducted formative research to better understand how teens currently use social media, how practitioners and grantees use social media in their adolescent and sexual health programming, and what insights we can glean from active youth social media campaigns and influencers. With the goal of making the campaign salient and engaging, We Think Twice has adopted a youth-centered design approach and developed the Creative Test Kitchen, where we partner with teens in person and online to create, incubate, and test ideas for campaign messages, content, and engagement strategies. Most teens use multiple social media platforms, with nearly all (96%) using YouTube and three quarters (76%) using Instagram.11 To reach teens where they are — online — the campaign is engaging teens on YouTube and Instagram as well as on a campaign website, which will include interactive and gamified content developed and tested with teens.
How You Can Help
Teens engaged in the Creative Test Kitchen tell us that authenticity is critical to the success of We Think Twice. To this end, we tailored most We Think Twice campaign materials to a teen audience and harnessed real teen voices. However, youth-serving individuals and entities, such as schools, parents, and FYSB Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP) program grantees, are important amplifiers of the campaign.
- Share our social media platform with the teens you serve: Instagram (@WeThinkTwice).
- Encourage teens in your life to join our online Creative Test Kitchen to help shape the campaign.
- Share our posts and videos on your own platforms for teens to help spread the word.
- Refer a teen who you think could serve as an ambassador for the campaign in your community by emailing WeThinkT@gmail.com.
- Share a link to the Check Your Reality quiz. The first of many products launched as part of the campaign, this quiz provides youth with a fun way to engage with statistics and social norms around risk behaviors, including having sex, drinking, smoking, and doing drugs.
- Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors and HIV Testing – National YRBS: 1991-2017.
- Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data summary & trends report, 2007–2017.
- Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., & Osterman, M. J. K., (2018). Births in the United States, 2017 (NCHS Data Brief No. 318). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
- Helms, S.W., Choukas-Bradley, S., Widman, L., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L. & Prinstein, M.J. (2014). Adolescents Misperceive and Are Influenced by High-Status Peers' Health Risk, Deviant, and Adaptive Behavior. Developmental Psychology, 50 (12): 2697-2714.
- Johnson-Baker, K.A., Markham, C., Baumler, E., Swain, H., & Emery, S. (2016). Rap Music, Perceived Peer Behavior, and Sexual Initiation Among Ethnic Minority Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58 (3): 317-322.
- Richards, S. O. (2010). Peer effects in sexual initiation: Separating social norms and partner supply (Doctoral dissertation).
- Sieving, R. E., Eisenberg, M. E., Pettingell, S., & Skay, C. (2006). Friends’ influence on adolescents’ first sexual intercourse. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38, 13–19.
- Van de Bongardt, D., Reitz, E., Sandfort, T., & Deković, M. (2015). A meta-analysis of the relations between three types of peer norms and adolescent sexual behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19, 203–234.
- Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, September). Sexually transmitted disease surveillance 2016.
- Fontenot, K., Semega, J., & Kollar, M. (2018, September). Income and poverty in the United States: 2017 (Current Population Report No. P60-263). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
- National Conference of State Legislatures. (June 2016). Unplanned pregnancy and future opportunities.
- Wang, W., & Wilcox, W. B. (2017). The millennial success sequence: Marriage, kids, and the “success sequence” among young adults. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.
- Lenhart, A., Kantor, L., Malato, D., Benz, J., Tompson, T., Zeng, W., & Swanson, E. (2017). Instagram and Snapchat are most popular social networks for teens; black teens are most active on social media, messaging apps.