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