Pediatric clerkship directors' social networking use and perceptions of online professionalism

Acad Pediatr. Mar-Apr 2012;12(2):142-8. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2011.12.003. Epub 2012 Feb 4.


Objective: The use of social networking sites (SNS) is increasing among all ages, with implications for medical education faculty and trainee interactions. Our objective was to understand pediatric medical educators' use of SNS and perspectives on professional boundaries and posted content.

Methods: From September through December 2010, the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics conducted its annual online survey. This survey included 11 questions regarding members' own SNS use, interactions with trainees, and perceptions about online behaviors by students. In addition, 3 open-ended questions about reasons for SNS use/nonuse and interactions with trainees were included. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were conducted with the use of logistic regression for predictors of clerkship directors' SNS use and views about behaviors. Open-ended questions were analyzed qualitatively to identify themes.

Results: Of the 65% (94/144) of clerkship directors responding to the survey, 34% (32/94) currently use SNS, 54% (51/94) never used SNS, and 12% (11/94) previously used SNS. Lack of time was the main reason for non-use. Female respondents were more likely to perceive it as never/rarely acceptable to accept students' friend requests (odds ratio = 2.96, P = .03). Most felt hypothetical student online behaviors were rarely/never acceptable, such as photos of students holding alcohol (68/92, 74%), using discriminatory language (89/91, 98%), and sexually explicit posts (87/90, 97%).

Conclusions: Approximately one-third of pediatric clerkship directors currently use SNS, with use less likely with increasing age. Fewer have SNS relationships with students than with residents. Perceptions of appropriateness of faculty SNS behaviors and students' postings varied. These perceptions by medical education leaders can stimulate discussion to inform consensus guidelines on professional SNS use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Social Support*