Three reasons for social workers to stay up to date on digital developments

Friday 21 June 2019


The child groomer has not been seen in the schoolyard for a long time and a criminal is not always physically visible anymore. With an increasingly digital society, the role of the social worker also changes. Our lecturer Marcha Hartman wrote about it in her book 'Social work in the digital society'. She gives three reasons for social workers to stay up to date on digital developments.

1: Not everyone can keep up.

"As a social worker, you want your client to keep up, but in order to do so, you also need to have the right digital skills. There are quite a few clients who have difficulties with filling in digital forms such as tax returns or submitting an application to their municipality. As a result, they give up or help from social workers is needed. But many social workers also have difficulties finding their way online and are therefore unable to help clients properly. If you do not have these skills, the feeling of shame grows and the gap with colleagues who do have knowledge of the digital society often increases.

2: The problem is changing. Offline becomes online. 

"We have to realise that online life is becoming more and more important and that troublesome offline behaviour has found its way online. Knowledge of game addiction or digital bullying, for example, is necessary to provide adequate help. Crime is moving to cybercrime and clients are often very vulnerable online. This can be seen, for example, in the way child groomers operate. The first contact with girls is often via Instagram and even when a victim is in a closed institution at a later stage for their protection, they are often still in contact with these child groomers by means of social media. As a care provider, it is crucial to discuss social media behaviour.

3: New issues arise

"How do we deal with the digital information and data of clients we receive? What digital tools do we use for this purpose and are they sufficiently secure? For example, is a Whatsapp conversation saved and are there any agreements in the organisation about the use of social media? What do you do when a client approaches you via your personal social media accounts, for instance? These are questions that many organisations in the social domain are not or insufficiently occupied with. These are also questions that affect the quality of our social lives.

The question of what effect digitisation has on our well-being is also growing. Being online on a regular basis can cause stress and being unable to keep up with developments can lead to exclusion. There are many more issues that the field does not yet have an answer to. These answers have to be found or it should be a political discussion. As a social worker, you can only identify these issues if you know what effect they have on society. It starts with knowing what is going on in the digital society."

Marcha Hartman is a senior lecturer and educational developer at the Social Work programme. She is a member of the iHuman Health Care Digital professorship (applied sciences). Are you curious about the range of studies in the field of social work? Learn about our programmes on