Professor Donna McAuliffe and Dr Jennifer Boddy from the School of Human Services and Social Work were invited guest speakers at an event put on for World Social Work Day at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on 20 March.

50 social work practitioners and students were in attendance to discuss complex issues around digital literacy and the impacts of digital technology on the health and mental health, and wellbeing of people who access hospital and health services. Issues discussed included the:

  • implications of risk-taking behaviour (eg taking ‘selfies’ in dangerous locations; motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents resulting from use of mobile phones while driving or walking)
  • sedentary behaviours and health risks resulting from excessive screen time
  • mental health implications of cyberbullying, online stalking, sexting; the growth of online support groups and online health promotion;
  • ways in which social workers can use online resources to assist isolated or disconnected individuals.

The primary message from the presentation was that social workers need to identify new areas of knowledge and skills for practice in the digital age, and need to consider how to include an individuals ‘networked life’ into psychosocial assessments.

Related research:

Social Media and Social Work: The Challenges of a New Ethical Space