Social Work and Social Media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating Social Workers across Shifting Boundaries of Social Work Identity

Deb Stanfield and Liz Beddoe 


Deb and Liz are members of the @RSW Collective, which publishes a blog  Re-Imagining Social Work , set up to  provide a platform to raise awareness about the threats to humane social work services in New Zealand and to promote discussion, debate and deliberation about progressive alternatives. Deb is a social work lecturer/ researcher and is  currently  a PhD candidate at the University of  Auckland, studying social workers engagement in social media for professional purposes. Liz is a social work academic with research and teaching interests in social work and the media, along with many other professional issues.

Social work activity in social media in Aotearoa New Zealand is growing and it is a very exciting time to be researching in this field.

The uneasy relationship between the social work profession and the media has led to recognition by social work educators of the need to incorporate knowledge of media processes and skills of media engagement into the social work education agenda. In addition, there is a clear link between traditional media and social media in the social work context, and the tensions experienced in the media landscape resulting from the recent move to social networking  are relevant to social work and its role in advocating publicly for the rights and needs of vulnerable people. Neil Ballantyne wrote on this blog in 2013 Reflections on social workers & social media in Aotearoa: Part 1. that there were many potential benefits of professional social media use, including the following:

  • participation in a global community of practice;
  • access to informal learning opportunities;
  • awareness of breaking news affecting the social work profession at home and abroad;
  • access to new research findings, learning resources, and events;
  • a forum for exchanging ideas about innovative practice developments and initiatives.

Our recently published  article ‘Social Work and Social Media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating Social Workers across Shifting Boundaries of Social Work Identity ‘ makes reference to these ideas in the context of  Deb’s  study that seeks information about social workers’ professional use of social media in this Aotearoa New Zealand. One component of Deb’s research is a series of key informant interviews. This part of the research is reported here.  Ideas offered by professional leaders in social work are thematically analysed, and themes discussed in this article relate to the complex personal and professional identities social workers negotiate as social media users.  Deb’s participants made  a strong case for social media education for social workers: ‘they highlight the key relationship between the emotional experience of using social media and crucial need for new knowledge’. One participant summarised the themes well

So it moves from the scary unknown to the known. There may still be scary bits about the known, which is valuable to recognise but while it’s still unknown then people are going to feel less confident around engaging. Becoming informed, becoming aware, and developing a more sophisticated view of social media; it’s not all good and it’s not all bad. (participant #3)

Implications for social work education are offered, including those that relate to professional identity development and the ever-shifting ethical landscape of social media engagement.

Read more in the full text of the article here 

Stanfield, D., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Social work and social media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating social workers across shifting boundaries of social work identity. Social Work Education, 1-13. doi:10.1080/02615479.2016.1154663  [published on early access 11 March 2016]


About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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3 Responses to Social Work and Social Media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating Social Workers across Shifting Boundaries of Social Work Identity

  1. dmcnabb2013 says:

    Well done Deb and Liz with this publication on Deb’s research. Important topic to explore. Was timely to have Fiona Knight presented with her ANZASW Innovation Award for launching a SW Facebook page and for speaking on this at our World SW Day event in West Auckland. Kia kaha from one PhDer to another!

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