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Social Work and Technology

July 03, 2019

Technology has infiltrated our lives in ways we sometimes don’t even realize, so how have social work and technology combined in this modern era, and have we even noticed? With 90 percent of all U.S. adults using the internet1, people are connecting with each other online through sites and social media and social workers need to be aware of how their roles are evolving. Fully understanding which technology clients are using, and the manner in which they use it, is critical in understanding how it may affect them. Technology in social work has also changed the way services are offered and how social workers interact and communicate with their clients, as well as the way agencies and individual practitioners operate on a day-to-day basis.2

How is Technology Used in Social Work?

Online technology in social work now allows professionals to communicate with clients, book appointments, track information and perform research on issues in the global industry. They can also create online support groups and moderate them in much the same way they would in face-to-face groups. For agencies, social work tech can now track client information, help with the planning and delivery of services and enable global consultation, enabling social workers to save on travel expenses.2

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), technology has changed the field in many ways. So many in fact, they changed their code of ethics to keep up with the digital age. Here are five ways modern social work and technology come together:

  1. Telehealth: Social workers no longer need to drive for hours to conduct a home visit with a client, the use of video conferencing and live-chat platforms have removed barriers to offering high-quality care to off-site clients. These virtual visits along with texting and social media allow for the opportunity to check in more frequently.
  2. Research: The internet helps social workers stay up to date in the field through a variety of resources, including but not limited to online webinars, virtual training sessions, peer-reviewed research, blogs and newsletters published by agencies such as the NASW.
  3. Management: Technology in social work helps professionals organize and manage their clients’ data, study and review provider performance and determine whether a client is a good fit for particular services and interventions.
  4. Employment: As with most modern job searches, the quest for a new social work job usually begins online. Digital job hunting allows social workers to find opportunities in their own communities and even out of state. The NASW also posts national job listings in their online Social Work Career Center.3
  5. Education: Online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, like the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited MSW offered by Yeshiva University, allow professionals to accelerate their training while continuing to work with their current client base. Those who earn an MSW from a CSWE accredited university will be able to demonstrate the high quality of their education to future employers.

Professional Standards for Technology in Social Work

The giant strides and shifts in technology and the way society uses it resulted in the need for a uniform set of standards for technology in social work. While Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines still apply to virtual visits and documentation, the NASW and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) felt the need to develop an official set of rules called the Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. This NASW code of ethics covers key concepts including informed consent, competent practice, conflicts of interest, privacy and confidentiality, sexual relationships, sexual harassment, interruption of services, unethical conduct of colleagues, supervision and consultation, education and training, client records and evaluation and research.4

These NASW ethical standards for social work and technology aim to help professionals:2 Manage and improve the quality of technology-related services they provide Serve as a guide/standard for integrating technology into their services Observe and assess the ways technology is incorporated in their service Inform clients, government regulatory bodies, insurance carriers and other necessary parties about the NASW ethical standards for the use of technology in the provision of social work services

What is the Future of Social Work and Technology?

In an age where an appointment can be booked via text or email, and the appointment itself can take place via Facetime or Skype, smartphones, mobile apps, social media are becoming convenient conduits to help clients and the masses. Social workers who have their own social media presence can use their platform to provide useful and interesting content to their followers. Professionals who choose to earn their MSW online will be especially well placed to adapt and adjust to the new demands for practicing social work in the digital age. Social work professionals will need to be able to acquire and retain technological skills and competencies that enable them to adapt traditional protocols and services to new technologies.2

If you feel called to help others through social work and want to expand your skills to meet the needs of clients in the digital age, consider how a CSWE accredited online Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University can help you accomplish those goals.

1 Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/
2 Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from mswcareers.com/technology-and-the-future-of-social-work/
3 Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from socialworkers.org/Careers/Career-Center
4 Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from socialworktoday.com/archive/081617.shtml