Social Media (use of)
Social media is any website or 'app' that allows the user to create, share or view content and to interact with other users.
Common social media includes:
- Online forums;
Social Work England is the regulator of all registered social workers in England. It sets the Professional Standards that all social workers must meet in order to practice safely and effectively and maintain their registration.
Standard 5: Act safely, respectfully and with professional integrity
5.6 As a social worker, I will not use technology, social media or other forms of electronic communication unlawfully, unethically, or in a way that brings the profession into disrepute.
The Professional Standards are supported by the Professional Standards Guidance. This provides additional information to social workers so that they understand and can meet the professional standards.
Social workers should not make reference to anyone they support or disclose personal or professional information about colleagues, managers, or employers on social media, an online forum or blog. Even if the references are anonymised, the identity of the person may be recognisable to others.
A person's right to privacy also applies online. Social workers who conduct searches online about people they are supporting, without their consent, could be breaching privacy laws and could potentially be compromising their ethical conduct. Sometimes searching for information in the course of social work is justifiable, such as in an emergency. In such instances, it is important to record actions and justifications.
Social workers should consider whether technology-based communication tools can facilitate communication with people. It is important that social workers are familiar with emerging technologies and the appropriate ways of using technology to aid communication.
Information and communication technology has become a fundamental part of social work practice. Email, text, posting online and sharing information and best practice can be essential tools. Social workers are expected to maintain their capabilities regarding technology, but it is important to remember that the professional standards that social workers uphold also apply online. A social worker should always use technology with the best interests of the people they work with as the primary consideration.
Social media can be a supportive tool to facilitate communication in an online community. However, social networking sites such as such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and others are public places. When communicating online people often have little control over who sees comments or where they end up, even if they are later deleted.
Social workers should be cautious about posting information about themselves on social media if it is something that they would prefer the people they work with did not know about. They should refrain from posting anything that may damage confidence in their work, or the work of the profession. This may include political, religious, or moral beliefs, social activities or personal relationships. Social workers should also be mindful of their organisation's policies and should not post anything that breaches their employer's code of conduct. At all times, they should uphold the confidentiality of the people they support, as well as their colleagues and the people their colleagues support.
It is important to apply stringent privacy settings and review them regularly. Privacy settings can be reset by the social networking site to a default which may not be as stringent as personal settings, so it is important to check these regularly.
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulates a range of health professionals, including Occupational Therapists.
In 2017, the HCPC published its 'Guidance on Social Media', to support registered practitioners to meet regulatory requirements in respect of their use of social media.
The guidance covers:
- Top tips for social media use;
- How to ensure that the use of social media falls within the HCPC's professional standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
Although it has been developed specifically for those registered with the HCPC, it contains guidance that is helpful to practitioners that fall outside of this remit.
It is important that you are also familiar with, and have regard to any local policy and guidance regarding the use of social media. If in any doubt, seek the advice of your line manager.
Last Updated: September 21, 2021