Dental Hygiene Students and Social Media Usage: The Need for ADHA Guidelines for Dental Hygiene Students

Sutton, Sandy

Objective-       The information exchange consisting of connecting, collaborating, and researching frequently gets mixed with the overly personal or outright inappropriate media.  Students and professionals encounter issues with the content displayed on these accounts.   Dental hygiene students enter into colleges already having a number of seemingly innocuous social media accounts in their names, which may possess inappropriate or unprofessional content.  Many see nothing wrong with what is on their accounts until they learn what is inappropriate and then look at their content. The goal of this study was to assess the understanding that dental hygiene students may have in guidelines, appropriate –vs- inappropriate content, and closing accounts in social media.  The results of which demonstrate the need for dental hygiene schools and the ADHA to be proactive in creating social media guidelines for protecting its students, future members and current professionals.

Methods-        The respondents in this survey were selected by a convenience sample method.  The sample consisted of all first and second year dental hygiene students from the 13 CODA accredited colleges and universities in Michigan attending the Student Member Day in November, 2013. There were a small number of third year students that responded and were included in the Demographics and Frequency Data.  The estimated number of students in attendance was 500, with a response from 251. The survey contained 14 dichotomous questions, and 3 demographic questions.

Results-           60.7% of students are posting pictures on social media sites and 16.2% of students were aware that they have inappropriate content on their sites.  94.1% of students know how to use privacy controls and 11.9% of students had previously deleted accounts due to inactivity or unprofessional content.  Students also responded that 48% of their schools do not have a social media guideline in place.  The responses demonstrate that students do not understand the electronic footprint of the internet: once content is created, it will always exist and can become public.  71.1% are using their social media for collaboration with other students.  This last measurement displays one of the intended, positive uses of social media.


Conclusion-    Today, college admissions officers, doctor and dental offices are looking at applicant’s social media accounts to insure that the applicant does not have anything that may be disreputable or would reflect negatively on their school or office.  Students, unless specifically shown what is unprofessional or inappropriate, could end up as victims of their own ignorance.   It would be a horrible injustice to spend so much time and money for an education just to find out that a graduate couldn’t even get an interview because of the information in their social media account.  This study reinforces the extreme need for dental hygiene schools and the ADHA to be proactive in developing guidelines to protect its hygiene students and current professionals.