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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.

Read the full article here.

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.



Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.


  1. I absolutely agree. I have a theory that social workers have become technology adverse through being forced to use extremely outdated insurance software and because our clients are often last to afford technology. This is no excuse and macro practitioners should do more to get advanced technology into the hands of direct practitioners and clients, as well as in our own hands. Also, tele-mental health is truly on the horizon and we will miss this transition if we are not prepared.

    • Politicalsocialworker March 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Thats true. It’s not just macro social workers that will suffer but also micro practitioners if we do not embrace tech. I’m seeing doctors, nurses, and psychologist warming up to telehealth software. I have seen a couple of social work forums talk about telemental health services. A couple of days ago I came across a LinkedIn post from someone who is about to graduate from USC School of Social Work and she said she had focused on Telemental health. I have to investigate, but it sounds like USC may be offering course work on this topic.


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