Navigating the Murky Waters of Social Media as a Professional

As you prepare to start your CSD career, it’s important to think about how ethical decision-making will be a part of your everyday experience. To create a greater awareness of situations that could pose ethical dilemmas throughout your career—and to get you thinking about how to handle these situations—ASHA established the Student Ethics Essay Award (SEEA) program.

Submissions are now being accepted for this year’s SEEA competition [psst … you could win registration at this year’s ASHA Convention in San Diego and up to $750!].

But before we talk more about that, let me tell you about last year’s winners …

Misuse of Social Media as a Clinician or Researcher

Last year, students were asked to write an essay that presented an ethical dilemma or challenge related to the misuse of social media as a clinician or researcher. Using ethics resources and the ASHA Code of Ethics (2016), they were asked to

  • identify one or more Principles and corresponding Rule(s) they believe had been violated,
  • provide rationale for their choice(s), and
  • discuss what action(s) they’d take to resolve the dilemma.

Strictly Confidential

Check out what ASHA’s 3 2019 SEEA winners had to say about the misuse of social media from the perspective of a future audiology and/or SLP professional:

1st Place: Erika Rose Baldwin (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

The Ethics of Social Media Advocacy

Erika was thrilled when she found out her essay scenario was used in the Board of Ethics’ session presentations at Convention last year—which she attended and snapped a photo with the SLP presenters.

Erika addressed how to approach social media when advocating for the professions, especially when it comes to conflicting opinions. Ethos, pathos, and logos are the three rhetorical strategies that can be used in persuasive communication:

  • Pathos: When you share an anecdotal experience to invoke an emotional response and support from the person with opposing views.
  • Ethos: When you acknowledge the commenters position but remain confident in your knowledge base.
  • Logos: When you use evidence-based practice to communicate the needs of what you’re advocating for.

Erika explained, “When clinicians engage in important conversations regarding client care on social media, by reducing pathos and centering arguments around ethos and logos, advocacy can be achieved without disclosing personal client information.”

2nd Place: Cameron Copala (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Social Media: Blending the Professional with the Personal

Cameron addressed personal versus professional use of social media, and whether a distinct separation of the two can—or should—exist.

He rationalized, “Ultimately, social media has facilitated much positive change in our field by connecting different networks of professionals that otherwise might never have the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. However, along with this comes the consequence that much of our personal lives can easily become linked to our professional lives via our social media pages. I don’t think there is an easy answer to where the demarcation between the personal and the professional should lie, especially in regard to expressing of potentially controversial or prejudicial opinions that are not linked to a person’s professional life. This is an issue that undoubtedly calls for the development of more specific guidelines…”

3rd Place: Nathaniel J. Smith (Truman State University)

Be a Friend: Face Up to Ethical Misuse of Social Media

Nathaniel addressed the issue of audiologists and SLPs maintaining strict client confidentiality on social media platforms. He stated, “Whether hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or afflicted by some other condition that impairs their judgment, audiologists or SLPs who commit online breaches of client confidentiality not only harm their clients, but also their own professions … Posting comments about clients that contain specific, potentially identifying details, is not just a serious breach of “netiquette,” but also a serious breach of professionalism.” Nathaniel goes on to say, “Every such instance of unprofessionalism erodes the public trust invested in audiologists, SLPs, and other healthcare professionals. Thus, SLPs and audiologists who witness online breaches of confidentiality must act in the interest of their clients, their professions, and their related professions…”

2020 Competition—Now Open for Submissions!

This year, we’re asking students to write an essay that considers the cultural background, experiences, and possible biases of clinicians and their clients related to cultural and linguistic diversity. What happens when you’re faced with an ethical dilemma regarding the differing perspectives?

Put your thoughts into words and submit your Student Ethics Essay this year for a chance to win:

  • One student registration to the 2020 ASHA Convention (first place winner only)
  • $750, $500, $250 for first, second, and third place, respectively
  • Certificates of achievement
  • 1-year National NSSLHA membership
  • Recognition on ASHA’s website, social media, and The ASHA Leader

Prepare Yourself

As future audiologists and speech-language pathologists, and holders of ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), it’s important to be prepared and think now about how you’ll approach ethical dilemmas as a professional. Once your certification application is received at ASHA, you become an official “applicant” for the CCC and under the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics—so, it’s never too early to become familiar with ASHA’s Code of Ethics!

Get started on your submission now—they’re due by 11:59 a.m. (EST) on April 10, 2020!

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