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Status update: Unprofessional postings by psychology doctoral students

25 July 2011


The growing trend of Internet and Web 2.0 use, such as social networking sites, has led to new dilemmas in the professionalism of psychology doctoral students; however, the problem is not currently well defined. Through an electronic survey this study measured psychology doctoral program administrators and students about their perceptions of problematic Web 2.0 use among psychology doctoral students. Primary measurements included the frequency of schools reporting incidents of unprofessional student-posted content online, the nature of the violation of professionalism, the type of disciplinary actions taken, the execution of professionalism policies that address Web 2.0, and future plans for development of professionalism policies related to Web 2.0. Approximately 36% of all psychology doctoral programs responded to the survey (133/371). Of those who responded, approximately 44% (55/126) reported experiencing incidents of unprofessional online postings by students. Only one respondent reported an incident of a violation of patient confidentiality online. More common reports included profanity, depicted intoxication, and sexually suggestive material. Approximately 34% (36/107) of schools reported having a professionalism policy that covers student-posted online content. Comparisons were made between those schools that reported incidents of unprofessional student-posted content online and those that did not. Schools that reported incidents were significantly more likely to have professionalism policies that address student-posted online content. Future research should consider development and efficacy of student professionalism policies and programs that address Web 2.0.


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