1 University College Cork (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 249-254
ISBN: 978-84-09-34549-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2021.0115
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Social media has become a central feature of our personal lives, but increasingly also part of professionals’ work. There are many positive attributes to social media use in social work: advocacy; professional networks, participation in communities of interest; CPD; political engagement; news; fun memes, and access to research. Social media use by child protection and welfare professionals has also become a focus for researchers, especially examining its use by professionals in child protection and welfare assessments (see Singh Cooner et al., 2020; Byrne et al., 2019) and adoption ethics in a digital world (see Reamer and Siegel, 2021). However, abuse and harassment are an increasingly prevalent aspect of some of our social media experiences, and this can be especially pronounced for certain professionals’, sports persons, political figures and those in public roles. Social workers are anecdotally reporting a greater prevalence of abusive and harassment behaviours as a direct result of their work in child protection and welfare, but official figures and studies are few. Some of these behaviours include: digital stalking, threats to or actually posting personal and private about professionals’ and/or their families, abusive direct messages, and the posting of videos of practitioners.

This presentation examines best practice advice for managers and practitioners as part of a new practice tool on Social Media Abuse and Social Work (Burns, O’Súilleabháin, Cuskelly & Kelleher, 2021) created as part of the Online Social Work Practice initiative at University College Cork. The presentation will examine: what managers can do to support staff members; what social workers can do to protect themselves to respond to abuse and harassment; the role and responsibilities of social media companies; key terminology such as ‘doxing’, ‘trolls’ and harassment.

The paper will also explore how the new Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 (Coco’s Law) and the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (Article 17, GDPR) can be used to enhance a professional’s safety. The presentation will examine how to balance citizens’ freedom of speech, critical commentary and public service accountability, with a professional’s dignity and rights to privacy and a good name.

Finally, the paper will examine how the co-construction of tools by practitioners and academics enriches pedagogical endeavours in applied disciplines. We argue that the tool we have created is transferable to a broad range of disciplines including medical, nursing, teaching, policing and allied health and social professions.
Online Harassment, Social Media Abuse, Social Work, Practice Responses, Co-constructing Practice Tools, Practice-Academic Pedagogical Partnership.