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

Hillary Rose Dolinsky, Natalie Helbig


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.


social media policy, ethics, social work administration, vulnerable populations

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Copyright (c) 2015 Hillary Rose Dolinsky, Natalie Helbig


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