In an increasingly technologically connected and public world, students are encouraged to remain mindful of their behavior and its consequences online, including the use of social networking, blogs, listservs, and email. It is likely that students, clients, supervisors, potential internship sites, research participants, and future employers may be interested in searching or accessing online information about you. While all information about you may not be within your control, students are urged to exercise caution and restraint and to utilize safeguards when possible. Activities online, including those that you may consider purely personal in nature, may reflect upon your professional life. Keep in mind the ideals of the preamble to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (APA Ethics Code) in which we aspire to do no harm to our clients, our research participants, or the profession with our actions. Adherence to this policy also will ensure your own confidentiality and safety.
Adherence to the APA Ethics Code
Students are expected to adhere to the APA Ethics Code. In their first or second year of the program, students will take a course on ethical practices in clinical psychology, which will include an in-depth review of the APA Ethics Code. However, students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with and adhering to the Code even prior to taking this course. The APA Ethics Code can be found here: http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/
Public Professionalism Behaviors
Public professionalism behaviors are those exhibited via the following mechanisms, although this is not an exhaustive list:
- Voicemail/answering machines
- Email signature lines
- Blogs (personal and professional)
- Social media sites (inclusive, but not exhaustive: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Research networking sites
- Postings to listservs/forums
Information about you might be deliberately searched or discovered incidentally and used to evaluate you for the following:
- Academic reviews
- Applications for clinical externships, pre-doctoral clinical internship, and post-doctoral fellowships Graduate program admissions
- Professional networking and professional development opportunities
Students should also note that if they identify themselves as a graduate student of the program or reveal information relevant to the graduate program in their email signatures, voicemail files, or website/blog information, then this information becomes part of their program-related behavior and may be used in student evaluations. For example, if a student reports doing something unethical or illegal on a web blog, or uses the website to engage in unethical or unprofessional behavior (e.g., disclosing confidential client or research information), then the program may use this information in the student’s evaluation, including decisions regarding probation or termination.
Thus, students are encouraged to consider the use of personal web pages and blogs, email, and other electronic media carefully. They should attend to what content to reveal about themselves in these forums, and whether there is any personal information that they would not want program faculty, employers, or clients to read or view. Anything on the internet is potentially available to all who seek. Students who use these media should also consider how to protect the security of private information.
Suggested Precautions and Modes of Professional Conduct
- With social networking sites such as Facebook, utilize privacy settings to limit access to your pages and personal information. Use thoughtful discretion when considering “friend” requests and consider the boundary implications. For example, it is not advisable to become virtual “friends” with clients or former clients or undergraduates for whom you have supervisory or evaluative responsibilities.
- With email, keep in mind that everything you write may exist perpetually or be retrievable, so be thoughtful about what you write. Emails sent via the UMass email system are considered public records and the property of UMass. Participation in listservs include the peril of inadvertently writing things to a much more public audience than intended, so be cautious with posts to such forums. Email is not an appropriate venue to discuss confidential information.
- Email “signatures” should be professional and appropriately represent one’s status and credentials. Students are encouraged to consider adding a confidentiality disclaimer to email signature files.
- Be mindful of voicemail greetings if you utilize a private phone for any professional purposes (clinical work, teaching, or research). Make sure that such messages reflect a maturity and professionalism that you would want to portray to the public.
- Online photo and video sharing, including within social networking sites, should be considered public venues; use discretion when posting such information.
- Write in the first person. Where your connection to UMass is apparent, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of UMass. In those circumstances, you may want to include this disclaimer: “The views expressed on this [blog; website] are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.” Consider adding this language in an “About me” section of your blog or social networking profile.
- Do not use your UMass email address for non-professional purposes.
- Be sure to review PSC Online Identity guidelines.