Eye on Ethics: Boundary Challenges in the Digital Age

Frederic G. Reamer, Rhode Island College


Today's social workers now face a wide range of boundary challenges that are unprecedented because of the relatively recent emergence of digital and other forms of technology. Digital technology has transformed the ways in which social workers are delivering services to clients, including distance counseling using video, live chat, avatars, smartphone apps, and text messages, among other tools; communicating with clients using social media and social networking sites (e.g., Facebook); searching online for information about clients (e.g., Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn); storing sensitive information (e.g., in the cloud) and permitting clients to access their electronic records remotely; and being the subject of online searches by clients (e.g., when clients seek personal information online about their service providers). These phenomena have created new forms of boundary issues that could not have been imagined by earlier generations of social workers.