Risky Business: Applying Ethical Standards to Social Media Use with Vulnerable Populations

  • Hillary Rose Dolinsky Center for Technology in Government University At Albany State University of New York
  • Natalie Helbig Center for Technology in Government University at Albany State University of New York
Keywords: social media policy, ethics, social work administration, vulnerable populations

Abstract

Social media is changing how those in the helping professions offer clinical, medical, or educational services, provide referrals, administer therapeutic interventions, and conduct research. Non-profits and government organizations working with vulnerable populations need to consider the possibility of ethical mistakes when using social media. A comparison of Facebook strategies used with the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) mandate to engage and locate current and former youth in the child welfare system was conducted. Facebook practices and strategies were examined based on the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. The ethical standards examined include: obtaining consent, preserving confidentiality, verifying youth identity online, and avoiding disclosure of foster care affiliation. Findings demonstrate the importance of providing guidelines and best practices when adopting social media tools for interacting with vulnerable populations.

Author Biographies

Hillary Rose Dolinsky, Center for Technology in Government University At Albany State University of New York
Hillary Closs is a program assistant at CTG. In this position, Hillary’s main responsibility is as Project Coordinator for the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) project. NYTD is a partnership with the Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Stony Brook University’s Center for Survey Research to implement a federally mandated, statewide survey that collects outcome data on 17, 19, and 21 year old foster care youth. As Project Coordinator, Hillary leads the development of creative and efficient strategies to ensure that the survey is administered and collected according to federal guidelines.
Natalie Helbig, Center for Technology in Government University at Albany State University of New York
As Assistant Research Director, Natalie supports the Center’s overall research portfolio through developing grant proposals, designing and executing field research, generating publications and serving within the practice and academic communities. Natalie holds a PhD from the University at Albany Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, is an affiliate faculty in the Department of Informatics, and teaches courses in public administration and government information and strategy. Natalie’s primary research interests examine how public agencies design, manage, and use their data and information resources. She draws on an interdisciplinary background in public administration, informatics, and organizational studies. Another area of expertise is in the use of technology and information tools in health and human services. She has expertise in cross-disciplinary collaboration, evaluation, action research, and research-practice partnerships.
Published
2015-07-27