Social media: Keeping others safe and upholding mana

The role and influence of social media and the way people and organisations interact with it continues to evolve and raise questions and challenges.

We take this opportunity to remind social workers about the values and ethics underpinning the social work profession – put simply, to do no harm and to behave in a way that upholds your mana and respects others.

As a social worker practising in Aotearoa New Zealand, you are expected to operate under the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work General Code of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct provide useful guidance on care to be taken when using social media.

From the ANZASW Code of Ethics – ethical principles associated with mātātoa and manaakitanga:


SOCIAL WORKERS act with moral courage in situations that are uncomfortable, challenging and uncertain. We use critical reflection and questioning to work through contradictions and complexity.

  • We commit to representing the profession of social work, our colleagues, our Association and our employers fairly, accurately and respectfully in all public and social media;


SOCIAL WORKERS recognise and support the mana of others. We act towards others with respect, kindness and compassion. We practice empathic solidarity, ensure safe space, acknowledge boundaries and meet obligations.

  • We commit to obtaining the necessary knowledge and skills for the proper and respectful use of digital technology and social media, recognising that lack of understanding and careless use may pose threats to a range of our ethical obligations;

From the SWRB Code of Conduct:

There are a number of references to social media in the Code of Conduct. Examples include:

Principle 7 – Respect the client’s privacy and confidentiality

“maintain client confidentiality and privacy by not referring to any client or client-practice issue in public places including in social media, as even if identifying data such as names or place of residence are not included, the client may still be recognisable.”

Principle 9 – Maintain public trust and confidence in the social work profession, and principle 10 – Keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely

Social media

You must carefully consider what you post or write on social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on). Before posting anything, think about who could see it. Remember that anything posted online can potentially be seen by a wider audience than originally intended. Consider all online posts to be public and permanent.

10.6      You are expected to be 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 – it’s your responsibility to:

  • manage any associated risks when using technology – consider the destiny of data and be aware that all posts on social networking sites are public and permanent
  • set and maintain clear and appropriate personal and professional boundaries in all forms of communication, including face-to-face contact, written, telephone, and online communications.