When working with people as social workers do, human connection can play an integral role in helping individuals, families, and groups overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges. However, as increasingly more people connect online via the internet and through social media, it’s important for social workers, and those seeking to begin a career in social work, to understand how their role is evolving and how best to harness the power of technology.
The Pew Research Center reports 86% of all U.S. adults are internet users, and 79% of them use Facebook, which is more than double the usage of those using Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%), or LinkedIn (29%).* Clients integrate technology into practically all aspects of their lives. Attaining knowledge about and participating in these client practices will lead to understanding how technology affects a social worker’s clientele.†
According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), technology has changed the social work profession—impacting those at the individual practitioner level all the way to the agency level.‡ Here are five ways social workers use technology:
- Telehealth: In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), conducting counseling sessions via the internet has helped remove barriers to offering quality care for off-site clients. Social workers no longer have to drive for hours for a home visit with a client. Using video cameras for visits and using FaceTime and Skype live-chat platforms make client meetings with care providers easier and more efficient because they require less travel. Texting and social media also offer the opportunity to check in whenever possible.
- Research: There are a number of web-based resources for information to help ensure that interventions have positive results.‡ In addition, the internet allows social workers to stay current in the field through numerous resources, including online webinars and trainings as well as peer-reviewed research, blogs, social media accounts, and newsletters published by social work agencies such as NASW and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).§
- Management: There are a number of software technologies that help social workers organize and manage client data, review and examine provider performance, and determine overall eligibility for particular services.** As more than one social worker can work on a single case, digitally sharing notes via Google Docs and other collaborative platforms allow for ease of communication while securely and ethically protecting client information.
- Employment: Social worker job searches often begin online, and social workers can search for opportunities in their community or in another state. Medical social worker jobs, school social worker jobs, and clinical social worker jobs can be found on popular sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and SimplyHired. NASW also posts national job listings and professional development and career resources via the Social Work Career Center.
- Education: Online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs offer the opportunity to accelerate the training of future social workers who will provide essential services to help populations in need around the world. Increased access to online MSW programs can help improve quality of life for individuals, families, and groups in underserved or at-risk populations. Earning an MSW degree online from a university that has Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation demonstrates the quality of education to employers.
Though using technology may not be new to the social work profession, there are many social workers who have not fully embraced all of the benefits that technology can bring to their clients and the profession. Learning how to use different types of technology in ethical practice can greatly improve the lives of others.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering online social work degree programs, including the Master of Social Work (MSW), Doctor of Social Work (DSW), and PhD in Social Work. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*S. Greenwood, A. Perrin, and M. Duggan, Social Media Update 2016, Pew Research Center, on the internet at www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016.
†E. Belluomini, Technology Changing the Face of Social Work, The New Social Worker, on the internet at www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/technology-articles/Technology_Changing_the_Face_of_Social_Work.
‡National Association of Social Workers, NASW & ASWB Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice, on the internet at www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/NASWTechnologyStandards.pdf.
§Our Lady of the Lake University, How Social Workers Use Technology, on the internet at onlineprograms.ollusa.edu/msw/resources/how-social-workers-use-technology.
**C. Reardon, Tech-Savvy Social Work—Meeting the Digital Demand, Social Work Today, on the internet at www.socialworktoday.com/archive/072009p12.shtml.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.