#socialwork: Informal Use of Information and Communication Technology in Social Work

  • Faye Mishna
  • Jane SandersEmail author
  • Sophia Fantus
  • Lin Fang
  • Andrea Greenblatt
  • Marion Bogo
  • Betsy Milne
Original Paper


Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed social realms and professional fields of practice including social work. Research is lacking on informal ICT use and its impact on clinical social work. The purpose of the current study was to examine social workers’ informal ICT use with clients between sessions as an adjunct to face-to-face practice, and thus contribute to the paucity of literature on this phenomenon. An online survey, #socialwork, was distributed among social workers with direct client contact, across Canada (n = 2609) and the U.S. (n = 1225), to capture informal ICT use. Findings indicate that informal ICT use by social workers is ubiquitous and consistent across both countries. Older and more experienced practitioners, and social workers in private practice settings and who provide psychotherapy were among the highest users. The findings related to social media and increased interaction outside of work hours reveal that ICTs are impacting the working relationship. Many of the social workers were not aware of a workplace policy on informal ICT use and report that they do not talk with either their supervisors or peers about their informal ICT use with clients. Given the frequency of informal ICT use within social work practice, significantly more attention is required in research, education and practice.


Information and communication technology Social work and social media Social work Working relationship Clinical social work Ecological systems framework Technological acceptance model 



Funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. 435-2016-0600).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of Texas at ArlingtonSchool of Social WorkArlingtonUSA

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