ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media 

What Social Workers Should Know in a Digitized Society – 6 Theses from the Cyberwork Conference

Today my colleague Timo Nicklaus and me attended the second day of the Cyberwork Conference in Bremen/Germany. Inspired by interesting talks on internet street work, digitized youth work, and online counselling we formed a group with different youth workers and media educators to discuss what digital technology asks from social workers.

Here are the main theses:

Young people using digital technology should be seen as an own culture.

The extensive use of digital technology like smartphones and social media may differ from the habits of the social worker. This is often discussed in terms of digital natives and digital immigrants. To enable relation building with someone from another culture the social worker needs intercultural competency like an attitude that shows openness, acceptance, and appreciation.

Digital technology is a cross-cutting challenge.

The requirements of digital technology cannot be met with one single training. Digital technology influences all areas of social work and the influence will stay or is even more likely to increase. Therefor the mind-set of social work must be reinterpreted regarding the impact of technology in people’s everyday life.

Media are crucial for relation building.

Relation building is a basic approach in social work and often established by spending time together on common interests. Clients use (digital) media to maintain their relationships. So should the social worker. A “I don’t have to deal with Facebook” attitude shows a lack of interest in clients.

Digital technology requires critical thinking.

Digital technology is neither good nor bad. The use of digital technology by clients and social workers should be accompanied by critical reflection looking at the pros and cons, pitfalls, risks and benefits. Personal experience in the use of digital technology is crucial to foster the reflective skills.

There is no difference between real and virtual life.

“Digital” or “virtual” is not the opposite to “real”. Digital technology and virtual experience have become real and are therefore part of our real life.

Digital inclusion is a significant part of Social Work.

The international definition of social work is based on the declaration of human rights. Since digital technology has become evident for participation in society giving underserved the possibility to access this technology has become an important part of social work.

Do you aggree with this? Share your thoughts in the comments!


…OK … we`re not only discussing theses. We also have some non-digital fun 😉


2 comments on “What Social Workers Should Know in a Digitized Society – 6 Theses from the Cyberwork Conference

  1. Gil
    April 22, 2013

    I’m uncertain I can agree with some of the premises being presented.

    “The mindset of social work must be reinterpreted…”
    Reinterpreted from what? While I agree that most social workers are not great technologists, the underlying focus on the development of appropriate therapeutic relationships doesn’t change because one is a digital native or an “immigrant.” This idea sounds dramatic, but I guess I don’t understand what is being said. “Pay attention to me even though I like and use digital devices?” That seems table stakes in the social work milieu…

    “Clients use (digital) media to maintain their relationships. So should the social worker.”
    Again, this seems plausible on the surface, but there are real and significant issues regarding the ethics and confidentiality of client’s life and relationship with clinicians. If this is saying “social workers should network using digital media” you should simply say that. If you are saying that social workers need to use digital/social media to maintain client relationships, I think you are on perilous turf.

    I know that there are some persons who believe that there is only one, open, honest, and digitally documented life, and that it should be open to everyone because “I have nothing to hide…” but I believe that part of the population is in the minority. Additionally, I would say that many people may come to have a much more nuanced view of the subject as they begin to age into later parts of the life course and decide that, maybe I DON’T want everyone to know EVERYthing about my life. Ethics seems, to me, to always trump, and erring on the side of caution for the clients seems the cautious and appropriate path.

    “Digital and virtual are real.”
    I don’t disagree that they are “real-ish” but they have an inherent distancing effect that, in my mind, don’t make them fully “real” because one cannot get the non-verbals and emotional cues that are fundamental to a face-to-face transaction. I’m not dismissing that these have become an important part of communication, but it is an inherently limited transaction, that can sometimes be used as a dodge for having to face up to “real” messy and emotional facetime.

    JMO. I’m an old fart, so I may not be trustworthy. Computers have been a part of my life for a long time though.

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. Peace.

  2. Pingback: How Social Workers can fight Cyberbullying | MOBILE SOCIAL WORK

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Lutz Siemer

Lutz Siemer

Education, Research & Development in Social Work & IT After working as an alternative practitioner and psychotherapist in private practice for nearly ten years I stepped over to higher education in 2005. At Saxion University of Applied Sciences I lecture and do research and development in the area of Social Work, Psychology and IT. Currently I'm focussing on merging mobile technology and social work.

Personal Links

View Full Profile →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Mobile Social Work on Twitter


Mobile Social Work on Facebook


Mobile Social Work on Google+


Social Mobile Work on Tumblr


Subscribe to Posts

The Fair(er) Phone:

FairPhone | A seriously cool smartphone. Putting social values first
%d bloggers like this: