ABA Journal Club #2: Ethics and Social Media

One of the tenets of ABA is to provide evidence-based practice. The best way to help us do this is to keep up with the literature! Each month, Sam Blanco, PhD, LBA, BCBA will select one journal article and provide discussion questions for professionals working within the ABA community. The following week another ABA professional will respond to Sam’s questions and provide further insight and a different perspective on the piece.

Head to our Facebook page to join the discussion and let us know your thoughts!

It is important in our field to maintain an open conversation about ethics. The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code outlines how behavior analysts are expected to conduct themselves, but sometimes situations are not so black and white. And as the world changes, so do the expectations for ethical conduct. In recent years, issues related to social media have been especially relevant. This month, I’ve selected the following article which addresses the special concerns that come up with the use of social media.

O’Leary, P. N., Miller, M. M., Olive, M. L., & Kelly, A. N. (2017). Blurred lines: Ethical implications of social media for behavior analysts. Behavior Analysis in Practice10(1), 45-51 .

  1. The article reviews the codes of ethics for other professions. Why is this valuable for us to do as a profession? Did you learn anything surprising or interesting form this portion of the article?
  1. Since this article was written, our field has a new Professional and Ethical Compliance Code. How does this code differ from the previously used Guidelines for Responsible Conduct? What aspects of the code directly apply to ethical situations related to social media?
  1. “A search on an internet search engine for information related to a procedure or scientific concept may yield results as to what that procedure or concept is. The same search on a social media outlet may yield results as to whether or not that procedure or concept should be used (p. 47.) Discuss this difference.
  1. Behavior analysts and others interested in the topic may turn to social media to get answers to their questions due to the low response effort involved and the speed of reinforcement. How can we decrease response effort and increase reinforcement for referring to the scientific literature to answer our questions?
  1. The authors provide suggestions for how behavior analysts should behave on social media. Are there any suggestions you might add? Are there ways you can increase the likelihood of other behavior analysts following these suggestions?
  1. Consider your own behavior on social media. Based on recommendations from the article, what is one change you can make to increase your own ethical behavior in this context?


Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-15 in NYC. Working in education for twelve years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam utilizes strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. She is also an assistant professor in the ABA program at The Sage Colleges.

New Online Curriculum from Autism Expressed Provides Digital Skills to Students with Autism

Autism Expressed is a new organization that strives to empower people with autism with the skills to use the internet and participate in social media. Their mission is to “give students with Autism marketable digital age skills and therefore, a greater advantage when pursuing their independence.” Lessons show them how to understand internet slang and lingo, how to make a Facebook page, and even how to launch a website.

Autism Expressed provides an online curriculum that teaches students internet basics like browsing, searching, email and web safety. The curriculum used is based on the methods of Applied Behavior Analysis so that each lesson builds on the previous and includes an activity so students can practice their new skill. Students can earn achievement badges to reinforce their progress. Students can log in and use Autism Expressed independently. After finishing their video lesson, they can complete an associated activity to unlock a new badge. If they get the answer wrong, the student is provided a prompt. Video lessons and activities can be viewed and practiced as many times as needed to comprehend content and to earn a badge. Since the safety of students is of the utmost importance, in addition to continuous reinforcement of safety procedures throughout the curriculum, there is also a special embedded browser that limits the access students have while they are learning and practicing their new skills.

Ideally, the results of the program are increased motivation, resiliency and a greater learning and earning potential.

Individuals and organizations can register here and you can also find them on Facebook.