What's on YOUR Facebook profile? Evaluation of an educational intervention to promote appropriate use of privacy settings by medical students on social networking sites.

Medical education online

PubMedID: 26198434

Walton JM, White J, Ross S. What's on YOUR Facebook profile? Evaluation of an educational intervention to promote appropriate use of privacy settings by medical students on social networking sites. Med Educ Online. 2015;2028708.
BACKGROUND
The rise of social media has led to growing concerns about the potential implications of 'unprofessional' postings by physicians and medical students on individuals, institutions, and the medical profession. Relevant and effective guidelines have been difficult to develop and enforce, and there is a need for students and physicians to consider how their online activities may be perceived in the context of their professional roles. The purpose of this project was to examine the Internet presence of a graduating Canadian medical school class by scanning students' public profiles on the social media site Facebook, incorporate this information into an educational activity addressing professionalism and social media, and evaluate the impact of this activity on student behavior.

METHODS
A systematic search for public Facebook profiles of each member of the class was conducted, and data were collected on the types of publicly visible material. These were presented as part of an educational session on social media and professionalism. One month later, the Facebook search was repeated.

RESULTS
Of 152 students in the class, profiles were found for 121 (79.8%). The majority of students used appropriately restrictive privacy settings; however, a significant minority had publicly visible information, including comments, photographs, location, and status as a medical student. The educational innovation was well received with more than 90% of students agreeing that this topic was important and well addressed. A follow-up search found that many students had altered their privacy settings to make less information publicly available.

CONCLUSIONS
A small but significant proportion of students share potentially unprofessional content on social media. An interactive educational intervention, which includes specific disclosure of how participants appear to others on social media, resulted in a significant change in student behavior.