Social work students have to master the competency of research-informed practice and practice-informed research. Very often, students have to deal with data which are collected from school-age children, patients, or other clients. It is essential to protect those sensitive data. For instance, those data may not only include personal identifying information such as name and address but also include medical history, mental health status, and treatment plans.
Social Work and Technology
Social work has been interacting with technology in an unprecedented way. In the educational setting, education has become more accessible than ever because of the internet. With the burgeoning of distance education or online education, there is a trend that more classroom functions and student experiences are moving into cyberspace. Students can watch the power point presentations, submit their assignments, and complete their assessments electronically using computers, tablets, smart phones, or other electric devices. In the clinical setting, on the one hand, social work professionals can provide counseling through telehealth and other online platforms. On the other hand, they have to deal with new social issues which emerged along with the development of internet. For instance, the widespread use of social media has made cyberbullying a big problem among school-aged children. Cyberbullying, which is defined by Merriam-Webster (2019) as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as a student) often done anonymously”, has become one of the major concerns among parents, educators, policy-makers, and practitioners. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center (2017), it was estimated that about thirty-four percent of students had been a victim of cyberbullying at some time in their lives and they were negatively affected by cyberbullying by showing emotional distress, depression and suicidal thoughts, decreased self-esteem, and worsened physical symptoms (Maryville University Online, 2019)
Social Work Code of Ethics
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has published the Code of Ethics to guide the everyday professional conduct of social workers. It is clearly stated that social workers should respect clients’ right to privacy and confidentiality. Under the “Privacy and Confidentiality” section 1.07, there are twenty-three specific guidelines listed. The confidentiality of client communications is one of the social work profession’s ethical foundations and obligations by law. In a society with rapid changes in information technology capacity, social work educators and practitioners have to keep up with technology and utilize technology for the benefits of clients.