International Summer University in Social Work 

Emerging Technologies in Social Work: Ethical challenges and opportunities in pursuing social work’s mission

Prof. Allan Barsky — Florida Atlantic University, USA

Information and communication technologies are being used in various aspects of social work practice, including online counseling (Hildy, Ferrer, Parish, Johnston, Callahan, & Yellowlees, 2013; Morgan & Polowy, 2012), record keeping (National Association of Social Workers & Association of Social Work Boards, 2005), education (Judd & Johnston, 2012), avatar therapy (Leff et al., 2014), suicide prevention (Marsch, Lord, & Dallery, 2015), and advocacy (Belluomini, 2014). With the new and emerging professional uses of smart phones, videoconferencing, email, social networking, electronic monitoring devices, mental health apps, and other digital technologies, social workers need to consider ethical issues and opportunities in relation to:

  • Confidentiality
  • Informed consent
  • Client safety (physical and psychological)
  • Documentation
  • Billing
  • Risk management
  • Boundary crossings and violations
  • Dual relationships
  • Diversity and socioeconomic considerations
  • Practice across multiple jurisdictions (Association of Social Work Boards, 2015; Zur Institute, n.d.).

During this presentation, participants will be invited to engage in case-based discussion of ethical issues regarding the use of technology in various aspects of social work (with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and policy). Dr. Barsky will also discuss recent and ongoing efforts to update ethical codes, practice standards, and legal regulations to take new and emerging technologies into account.