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Slide Notes

This presentation explores the benefits – and some of the risks – for social workers using social media.
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Social media and social work

Published on Nov 18, 2015

The risks and benefits of social media for social workers.


social work & social media

the benefits & some risks

This presentation explores the benefits – and some of the risks – for social workers using social media.

Let's start with the risks

what are the risks for social workers using social media?
Along with the benefits and exciting immediacy of social media, there are also some risks.

Risks awareness is especially important for human services professionals like nurses, teachers and social workers.
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Social media are popular

Social media are incredibly popular and are now used by most people to chat, learn, and share passing thoughts and moments with colleagues, friends and family.
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social media

blur the boundaries between the personal & the professional
A significant part of the problem is that social media blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. This can create problems for social workers and social work employers.

Megele, C. (2012, October 30). Employers social media policy and the challenge of e-Professionalism [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1bmOQHs.

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risky behaviour

  • Public display of inappropriate views or conduct
  • Blurring professional boundaries
  • Breaching confidentiality & privacy
  • Geotagging and stalking
  • Onlne bullying and harassment
Social workers are expected to be trustworthy, reliable and of good character. But social media can expose the personal lives of unwary social workers to public scrutiny in new ways.

Some social workers (like other professionals) have been disciplined for unethical behaviour using social media.

Reamer, F.G. (2009, November 13). Novel boundary challenges: Social networking. Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/IQU4os
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Be aware

social media spaces are public places
Social media spaces are networked public places. What you say and do there can be seen and heard by many.

Don't post anything you wouldn't want your employer, service users, or professional body to see.

danah boyd. (2010). Social network sites as networked publics: Affordances,
dynamics, and omplications. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1d7LFq6
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Be cautious

use care & common sense
Social workers using social media need to use caution, care and common sense.

The risks are not inevitable and can be reduced by pausing before posting.

Robb, M. (2011). Pause before posting: Using social media responsibly. Retrieved from
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let's not forget the benefits

of social media for professional practice
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Ethical practice

is required online as well as offline
When all is said and done it's simply about behaving ethically.

As Ermy (a UK social work blogger) has written:

‘If someone doesn’t realise that disclosing details of a visit on their own blog is counter to professional codes of ethics, it isn’t because they don’t ‘get’ social media, it’s because they don’t ‘get’ professional codes of confidentiality’.

Reamer, F.G. (2011, July 1). Developing a social media ethics policy. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1hDM210
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for social workers

  • Professional networking
  • Communities of practice
  • Current awareness & informal learning
The benefits (and risks) of social media for individual social workers are discussed in the following blog post.

Ballantyne, N. (2013, December 3). Reflections on social workers & social media: Part 1 [Blog post]. Retrieved from
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for social work academics

  • Research dissemination & collaboration
  • Open academic practices
  • Knowledge transfer

for social work organisations

  • Service user engagement
  • New forms of online practice
  • Organisational learning & development

skilful use of social media

realises benefits & reduces risks
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some examples

social media use for professional networking


for current awareness and event backchannels

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for professional networking and career development


for blogging about social issues


for sharing images of conferences and events

haiku deck

for simple but compelling presentations
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used in combination

social media offer powerful interactive spaces
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for professional learning

and development
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@Neil ballantyne

I'm Neil Ballantyne, an independent educational consultant, researcher, learning technologist and Director of Learning Designs.

I'm based in Wellington, New Zealand: described by the Lonely Planet as 'the coolest little capital in the world'.



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