Use of social media by practitioners & volunteers – advice for all
Digital technology has become an important part of everyday life; however an increasing number of cases where workplace practice has exposed the inappropriate use of technology, grooming behaviour and an inability to challenge colleagues has highlighted the need for clear practice guidance for workers and organisations around safer working practice.
Anyone who works with children, young people, adults or their families, whether in a voluntary or paid capacity, must always have their professional role in mind when operating in the digital world and should always consider how their behaviour could affect their professional reputation and employment. All digital records should be considered to be permanent.
MSAB and MSCB expects all partner agencies to have their own advice and guidance in place, which includes:
- safer working practice in relation to the use of social media;
- keeping personal and professional lives separate;
- keeping safe when using electronic media; and
- adopting responsible behaviour that should protect staff from putting themselves and their career at risk.
This guidance is not intended to interfere in an employee or volunteer’s private life, but to help avoid work and private lives clashing in inappropriate ways because of social networking activities.
Good practice guidelines
- Remember you are responsible for the data on your electronic communication device.
- DO NOT behave in a way that could suggest that you are trying to develop a personal relationship with a child, young person or vulnerable adult.
- DO NOT post any content that could be deemed defamatory, obscene or libelous.
- DO NOT post comments that exhibit or appear to endorse grossly irresponsible behaviour or law breaking of any kind.
- Set your privacy settings for any social networking site to ensure only the people you want have sight/ access to the contents. Keep these updated. The default settings for most social networking sites are set to open access where anyone can see everything.
- Ensure your mobile phone (or any technological equipment) is password/ PIN protected. This will ensure that other people can’t use your equipment and get you into trouble.
- Consider having separate personal and professional online identities/ accounts if you wish to have online contact with service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their families and other professionals. Ensure that your manager is aware of your professional online persona.
- Make sure that all information about you that is publicly available is accurate and appropriate – think particularly about whether photographs/ stories that you may have posted in your personal life are appropriate for a person with a professional life and a reputation to lose. If you don’t want it to be public, don’t put it online.
- Remember that online conversations may be referred to as ‘chat’ but they are written documents and should always be treated as such. Be mindful about how you present yourself when you are publishing information about yourself or having ‘conversations’ online.
- Make sure that you are aware of your organisation’s policy regarding the use of both organisational and personal digital equipment and the consequences of misuse. Breach of the policy can result in capability or disciplinary actions by your employer, professional body and criminal proceedings by the police.
- Err on the side of caution. If you are unsure who can view online material, assume that it is publicly available. Remember – once information is online you have relinquished control of it. Other people may choose to copy it, to edit it, to pass it on and to save it.
- Switch off any Bluetooth capability any device may have installed as standard. Bluetooth allows another person to have access to your equipment – they can then pretend to be you.
- Always be aware that technology is constantly upgrading and improving. You may have access to websites via a work-provided smart phone that are blocked by your computer. Mobile phones come with locator software. Cameras can be a feature of games consoles.
- When you receive any new equipment (personal or private) make sure that you know what features it has as standard and take appropriate action to disable/ protect.
- Giving your personal information to service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers. This includes personal mobile phone numbers, social networking accounts, personal website/ blog URLs, online image storage sites, passwords/ PIN numbers etc.
- Using your personal mobile phone to communicate with service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers either by phone call, text, email, social networking site.
- Using the internet or web-based communication to send personal messages to service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers.
- Sharing your personal details on a social network site with service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers. This includes accepting them as friends. Be aware that belonging to a ‘group’ may give ‘back door’ access to your page even though you have set your privacy settings to family and friends only.
- Adding or allowing service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers to join your contacts/friends list on personal social networking profiles.
- Using your own digital camera/ video for work. This includes integral cameras on mobile phones.
- Playing online games with service users i.e. children, young people, adults or their parents or carers. This can be difficult when the culture is to play with ‘randoms’. Check out before you play online with someone you don’t know.
Policy and Procedures
The Boards expect all member agencies to have policies in place to support online safety practice. The following list is not exhaustive:
- Data Protection Policy;
- Information Governance Policy;
- Code of Conduct;
- ICT Security Policy;
- Social Media Policy for staff includes the requirement to maintain appropriate professional standards both inside and outside of the work environment (e.g. Social Networking Sites);
- Appropriate Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) which users must read (and sign where applicable) before using any ICT resources.
An example of an ICT Acceptable Use Policy for staff and young people (AUP) can be found in chapter 4.2 of the GMSP procedures as Appendix 1: Example of an ICT Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for Staff and Young People.
The GMSP procedures also contain a section Safer Working Practices for Those Working or Volunteering with Children and a link to ‘E-Safety Working Practices for Staff Procedure’ which sets out good practice guidelines when working with children and young people.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) guidance
The HCPC have published guidance on social media which contains useful pointers for professionals and students about how to interact using social media in a way that meets their standards.
The guidance focuses on issues that registrants and other stakeholders come across most frequently. It was informed by an online workshop and public consultation and complements guidance produced by professional bodies.
The guidance explains what HCPC standards mean when using social media and they have structured part of the guidance under the areas of their standards which apply to the appropriate use of social media.
Download the Guidance on social media from the HCPC website www.hcpc-uk.org
To accompany the guidance there are some ‘top tips’ and useful case studies that demonstrate the positive and negative effects of social media on registrants’ practice.