Anikó Panna Tóth PhD (Hungarian Association of Social Workers (HASW/SZMME); University of Debrecen, Faculty of Health Sciences, Institute of Social and Sociological Sciences, Department of Social Sciences and Social Work)
Topic: Professional and ethical issues of social workers’ online relationship with clients and their use of social media
The use of ICT is widespread among social workers, many using digital technology to keep in touch with their clients and more and more professionals consulting online. During the COVID-19 epidemic, social institutions that were previously averse to using technology began to take advantage of the opportunities it offered. In light of this it is important to consider the implications this has on the profession of social work, what ethical and professional issues it raises. To address these questions, the speaker conducted research among social professionals in Hungary, using a quantitative method to examine their attitudes, needs, IT proficiency and digital literacy, as well as the characteristics of their social media use and online contact with clients. The data collection took place at the beginning of 2020, with an online self-filled questionnaire, there were 337 respondents. According to the results, the attitudes of social professionals consider and use social media as an excellent tool for sharing knowledge, learning, and self-development. Every tenth social professional provided online consultation or ran an online group for clients, and every fourth used digital technology for advocacy and community development. Many professionals have experienced the benefits of using social media, but at the same time, every fourth respondent has had their client disturbed their privacy on social media. 64.7% of the respondents have accidentally come across their client’s data, blog or profile on the Internet, and 57.9% have searched for their client on the Internet. 88.6% of respondents who use social networking sites have had their client send them a friend request on a social networking site. They responded to these requests in a variety of ways, very uncertain about what would be considered appropriate behaviour. The presentation ends with recommendations for online contact with clients and the conscious use of social media.