Social Media Use Guidelines

Purpose: This policy is meant to offer guidance to students as to how to enjoy participating in social media without jeopardizing the professional, ethical, and legal standards expected of them due to their affinity with the medical profession and with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The policy will outline suggested guidelines, as well as draw attention to a few clear violations of appropriate use of social media. 

Background: As members of the medical community and as students enrolled in at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, students must realize that their behavior on social media is subject to a higher degree of scrutiny and may reflect on more than just the intended scope of their personal life. Students have a responsibility to uphold the professional standards of physicians beyond the classroom, which can be particularly challenging in the new era of widespread access and sharing of information via the internet. Inappropriate behavior may risk the student’s professional reputation and good standing in the medical school. 

Policy: The term “social media” here is intentionally broad, and students should consider before interacting in any internet public forum, including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, blogs, comment sections of news sources, and similar online social media pleasure or networking sites.  

When interacting on social media students are urged to think critically about how they would like to be perceived publicly, or by a broader audience than they may initially anticipate. Asking questions like, “would I want my parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, school administrators, clinical evaluators, program directors, patients, etc. to see this?” before posting is a helpful exercise. Avoid engaging in conduct that could be viewed by others as defamatory, harassing, or an infringement of the rights of others. 

Students should use particular caution when referencing their experiences in or events associated with the medical school or with patient care. Always be transparent, making clear your posts are your opinion unless you are authorized to speak on behalf of the medical school. The use of the official Perelman School of Medicine logo must be approved by the University prior to any post. Furthermore, students must adhere strictly to other policies of the medical school, hospital, and university in their social media, included below. It is extremely important to remember the sharing of personal health information is strictly prohibited under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Any violations of these guidelines using social media will be handled according to the specific University policy violated.

List of other relevant policies:

Guidance for Centers, Institutes, Divisions, and Other PSOM Groups creating social media pages

Guidelines for the Use of Social Media at Penn


Updated 12/9/19