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Computer and networking tools provide considerable potential and capability principally as a means for communication, cooperation, and as delivery intervention. Internet users, for instance, benefit from the independence of carrying out various transactions, as well as counseling, through the Net. With this liberty, though, comes a significant accountability to utilize computers and the Internet especially, in a way which is secure, safe, ethical, and makes contribution to the general welfare of those involved.
Counselors should commit themselves to knowing and being aware of the risks involved in utilizing computers and employing the internet superhighway. Sabella, R. A. (1999) noted what the computer and Internet technologies have generated relative to counseling issues: addiction of the internet, accessibility, pornography, sexual harassment online, safety, and security. With growing responsiveness, counselors can be more effective in making decisions regarding their behavior and computing online.
One crucial issue of ethical computer utilization is the matter of confidentiality. The relationship of counselor and client is confidential and involves conformity with ethical standards, policies and laws relating to confidentiality. In Computer, ethics, and the school counselor (1988), Mudore presented a number of recommendations for counselors for safeguarding the privacy of records and making sure that the information is only accessed by authorized persons.
These recommendations include: keeping the computer in a private area in order that student information can be keyed in confidentially; putting counseling records relating to student information on a backup storage disk; marking counseling disks in code instead of marking them “Student Information or Student Data;” protecting unauthorized copying of disks by detaching disk tabs, securing up disks, and not permitting disks to be taken out from their storage location; encoding a password before a computer can be opened to prevent unauthorized access on the hard drive; talking to other staff to convey concerns regarding privacy; and informing the school community regarding the challenges and issues generated by computer technology.
It was also recommended by Sampson and Pyle (1983) that: only vital and essential information are kept; the information is accurate; the data are destroyed when these are no longer necessary to provide services; separate identifiable data is not maintained to which there is computer network access; and, separate identifiable information is not utilized for research reasons without the permission and approval of those who provided the information. Word processing programs and database programs are nowadays equipped with the ability to provide a file password. The benefit to these software programs is that if there is a password assign to the file, the file is encrypted in code and made it unreadable.
Even though there is a possibility of cracking or hacking the code, it would take considerably broad programming knowledge in computer and access to the encrypted files. The disadvantage of employing this security aspect is that if the assigned password is forgotten by the counselor, then it is also pose a difficulty for the counselor to retrieve and access the file. It is, therefore, essential to write down passwords and accordingly put them in secure and safe access. It is likewise necessary to change passwords at regular intervals to further prevent infringement of confidentiality in the occasion a data file is stolen or unauthorized access.
Passwords, on the other hand, should not be created by employing such characters as names, adjectives or birthdays that are quite obvious and easily deciphered. Passwords should be created using a combination of numbers and letters that are quite difficult if not impossible to decode and crack. Even though security measures and encryption have highly become sophisticated, illegal and unpermitted access to online communications continues to be a possibility without greater attention to security methods. Counselors who effectively practice online must not only legally protect but ethically safeguard their clients, themselves and their profession by employing all available and necessary security procedures.
Other likely issues in using computer technology include: Competency. The counselor and the client should be sufficiently computer literate for the network environment to become a workable interactive counseling medium; Specific Locations. A possible lack of comprehension on the part of remote counselors of conditions, cultural issues, and events relating to specific locations that influence clients may limit credibility of a counselor or may lead to unsuitable interventions in counseling; Equitable Access. Does the price of online access present another impediment for getting hold of counseling? Does online counseling alienate further prospective clients who most possibly need counseling?
Though having access to the Net, can a client proficiently engage online counseling without having a computer experience? Online counseling appears to aggravate equitable issues already dealing face to face counseling. Credential. How will licensing laws and certification apply to the World Wide Web as state borders are electronically crossed over? Will counselors be needed to be licensed and certified in all states or countries where the clients are situated? Will online counseling really be the thrust for a national credential acknowledged by all states? Is there a necessity to move for worldwide credentialing? Who will supervise international or out of state complaints? Cyber Care.
Can counselors promote the advancement of real working relationships, caring and trusting on the Net? Cyber Client identity. Do you really know your online client? Does the client show himself or herself as an adult but in fact is a minor? Could the client have disguised his or her race, gender, or other personal information that could jeopardize the soundness or reliability of the counselor’s efforts? Counselors can make the plunge into cyberworld and apply present ethical standards and guidelines to carry out themselves in an ethical manner. Issues exist however but certainly the future will provide a platform in what signifies to be ethical as the precise nature of online counseling is learned.