Socially Awkward Abroad: A Call for Social Media Policies in Residencies that Offer Global Health Electives

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2018 Nov;99(5):1275-1282. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.18-0501.


Both social media use and the popularity of global health electives (GHEs) have increased in recent years. Social media use during GHE is commonplace and has benefits, yet sharers may not consider the ramifications of these posts, including privacy violations. Social media policies-which have become more common in residency programs-may aid in providing clear expectations to trainees abroad. The authors aimed to determine the prevalence of social media policies among pediatric residency programs that offer GHE. The authors used a cross-sectional survey design in which educators at pediatric residency programs that offer GHE were surveyed using REDCap®. For all quantitative data, proportions of responses were calculated and analyzed using Microsoft Excel 2013®. The authors analyzed qualitative data using a conventional content analysis approach. The survey was sent to 74 educators; 39 (53%) responses were received. Most (62%; n = 24) of the pediatric residency programs that offer GHE reported that their institution had a social media policy. About one-third (34%; n = 13) of respondents stated that their programs had social media guidelines that pertained specifically to GHE and fewer indicated that social media guidelines were included in their programs' GHE predeparture curricula (32%; n = 12). This study found that most of the residency programs surveyed had social media guidelines, but few had guidelines applicable or specific to GHE. Informed by this study and a literature review, the authors propose template language for a social media guideline with considerations for social media use in the context of GHE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Global Health / education*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Pediatrics
  • Social Media / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires