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J Dent Educ. 2013 Nov;77(11):1425-30.

Examination of social networking professionalism among dental and dental hygiene students.

Author information

1
Division of Dental Hygiene, College of Dentistry, The Ohio State University, 3082 Postle Hall, 305 W. 12 Ave., Columbus, OH 43210;. Henry.358@osu.edu.

Abstract

Becoming a dental professional requires one to apply ethical decision making skills and demonstrate high standards of professionalism in practice, including the way professionals present themselves to the public. With social media as an evergrowing part of personal and professional communications, this study aimed to determine the accessibility, amount, and type of unprofessional content on Facebook profiles of dental hygiene and dental students in a college of dentistry. The authors evaluated the online profiles of all 499 dental and dental hygiene students at The Ohio State University using objective measures that included existence of a profile, current privacy settings, and access to personally identifiable information. A sample of profiles were evaluated for unprofessional content including photos, comments, and wall posts. The majority of these students were found to use Facebook, with 61 percent having Facebook profiles. Dental hygiene students were more likely to have a Facebook profile than were dental students: 72.6 percent and 59.1 percent, respectively (p=0.027). The majority of the students' profiles had some form of privacy setting enabled, with only 4 percent being entirely open to the public. Fewer than 2 percent of the students allowed non-friends access to personal information. Based on in-depth analysis of the profiles, fourteen (5.8 percent) instances of unprofessionalism were recorded; the most common unprofessional content involved substance abuse. This study found that these dental and dental hygiene students frequently possessed an identifiable Facebook account and nearly half had some kind of personal information on their profile that could potentially be shared with the public. In some instances, the students gave patients, faculty, and potential employers access to content that is not reflective of a dental professional. Academic institutions should consider implementing policies that bring awareness to and address the use of social media in a professional environment.

KEYWORDS:

academic integrity; dental hygiene students; dental students; professionalism; social media; social networking sites

PMID:
24192407
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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