The Ethical Use of Social Media in Community Practice Social Work
By Rachel L. West
The Political Social Worker
The Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics recently published an article on the ethical use of social media by community practice social workers.
Web 2.0 in Social Work Macro Practice: Ethical Considerations and Questions looks at the current literature on the use of social media in macro practice. The authors call for further studies that examine the strengths and limitations of using technology in social work practice. They also discuss the need for social work organizations to update their guidelines regarding best practices in this area.
Professional organizations have an important role to play in this work as well. The most recent guidelines by NASW and ASWB, while helpful, were published in 2005. Things have changed dramatically since then—Facebook was created in 2004, YouTube in 2005, the first IPhone was released in 2007—the list of innovations goes on. Clearly, the guidelines need to be updated to reflect the current environment.
Social work in general has been painfully slow to embrace technology. Other professions, including the nursing, are way ahead of us in incorporating technology into their work. I believe this is hurting community practice social workers ability to break into the field. Over the years I have noticed more and more people with tech backgrounds doing community organizing and outreach work with nonprofits and political campaigns.
Currently, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is accepting feedback on the 2015 EPAS. What I would like to see is a push for social work programs to include technology in the curriculum. The inclusion of technology is imperative. Failure to do so will result in social work graduates not being able to compete with job seekers who hold similar degrees.
When I say social work programs need to incorporate lessons about technology, I’m not simple talking about knowledge of how to use social networking sites like Twitter or about a brief discussion of boundaries. Social work sources need to include instruction about CRM Software and GIS mapping. Having knowledge of these programs is especially important for macro social workers. Most MPP and MPA programs have incorporated these technologies into their programs making their graduates more qualified for community practice jobs.
My advice to macro social work students is to learn as much as you can about social media. At a bare minimum have a grasp of how to use social networking platforms. Because that knowledge can make a difference when it comes time for you to search for work.