Code of Conduct in Practice #1: Social Media Use and Personal Beliefs

  • Does being registered mean I can’t say what I think online?
  • Do I always have to agree with policies?
  • How can I advocate for service users?
  • What does the Code of Conduct say about this?


This guidance note provides advice about maintaining professional standards of integrity and conduct, in relation to expressing personal beliefs on social media. It provides examples of the types of notifications the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) receives, relating to social media use. There are also some questions posed, that provide further opportunities to reflect on this topic.


The SWRB receives notifications about the inappropriate use of social media by registered social workers. These may take the form of complaints or concerns raised by members of the public, people receiving social work services, employers or colleagues.

Examples of inappropriate use include:

  • social workers using their personal social media platforms to promote views which are against the law or against the mandates of the organisation they work for, such as pro-conversion therapy and anti-vaccination messages.
  • the promotion of views that could be interpreted as discriminatory such as racist or homophobic comments.
  • registered social workers using social media to send direct messages and/or write posts about others which are threatening, harassing and/or bullying in their nature. Social workers making disparaging remarks about the reputation of their employers and/or colleagues.

The Code of Conduct

The SWRB Code of Conduct (the Code) sets out the minimum professional standards of integrity and conduct that apply to registered social workers.  The following principles of the Code are relevant to social media use by social workers:

Principle 3: Respect the cultural needs and values of the client.

  • This includes respecting the diversity between and within cultures. It also includes diversity of ethnicity, disability, economic status, age, sexuality, gender, faith and beliefs.

Be aware of any personal or religious beliefs or moral positions you have. Make sure these do not override a client’s right to self-determination and to receive a quality social work service.

Principle 9: Maintain public trust and confidence in the social work profession.

  • This includes maintaining a high standard of professional or personal behaviour, avoiding activities, work, or non‐work that may in any way bring the social work profession into disrepute. These same standards of conduct are expected when using social media and electronic forms of communication.

In relation to social media, this means you must carefully consider what you post or write on social media such as Facebook, X (formerly called Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, forums etc. Before posting anything, think about who might view it and how they might interpret it. Remember that anything posted online has the potential to be seen by a wider audience than originally intended, even if posted in a private group.

Principle 10: Keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely.

  • This includes being aware of the dynamics, advantages and limitations of technology-based interactions and the ways in which technology-based social work practice can be safely and appropriately conducted.

Consider all social media posts to be public and permanent. Once information has been posted online it can remain traceable even if it is later deleted. Remember posts and messages can be screenshotted and information can quickly spread beyond a person’s control. This also applies to messaging platforms such as Messenger or WhatsApp.

Anyone may search for information about you on the internet. Be aware that your personal online profile may disclose considerable personal information about you, your whānau and what you do in your leisure time. You may unintentionally inform others of your political, religious, or moral beliefs, social activities and personal relationships. Make sure privacy settings are at the appropriate level.

If you see a colleague, or another social worker putting themselves at risk on social media or behaving inappropriately, consider letting them know (in a discrete way). Encourage them to withdraw the information. If this doesn’t work, you may contact the SWRB.  Never use social media as a way of disclosing the professional misconduct of others.


Below are some questions, that you could consider using in supervision to reflect on the topic of personal beliefs and social media use:

  1. How are we being mindful of power differentials and ensuring that our own personal views are not put before the best interests of a person with whom we’re working?
  2. How do we make sure our personal views don’t override another’s right to self-determination and to receiving a quality social work service?
  3. How are we ensuring that we respect the cultural needs, values and diversity of those with whom we are working, even when those are different to our own values?
  4. How are we being mindful of how clients may interpret our personal views in the public arena? They may not perceive the difference between our professional and personal selves.
  5. How do we maintain a high standard of professional and personal behaviour both during and outside work? How do we make sure we avoid activities that may bring the social work profession into disrepute?
  6. How do we ensure that we carefully consider what we post or write on social media, bearing in mind that all online posts are traceable and have the potential to be captured permanently by others?


As a social worker, you can have your own personal views on a government policy or mandate or have moral standpoints on different topics. Social workers often have different views on policy matters and regularly act as advocates for vulnerable service users. If personal views are shared and promoted publicly however, such as though social media, then these are no longer personal and have the potential to be captured permanently by others.  When using social media, be aware of the impact your actions may have on the reputation of the social work profession. Consider whether your online activity could prevent safe professional practice and may subsequently be in breach of the SWRB Code of Conduct. 

Related advice

Social Workers Registration Board Ngā Ture Whanonga/Code of Conduct

2021 SWRB Guidance for social workers on social media and Covid-19 vaccination messages

2022 Social media: Keeping others safe and upholding mana

2019 ANZASW Code of Ethics