The development of the Internet has created many opportunities for expanding the way that knowledge and services have traditionally been disseminated in all businesses and fields of study. Along with these new opportunities for development comes the potential to misuse this technology. In a profession such as sport psychology, misuse of the Internet can easily damage the reputation of the field, and result in harm to individual clients. As a means of establishing standards for the proper use of the Internet, it is essential that ethical guidelines be expanded to include the use of the Internet in sport psychology. This Position Stand identifies several of the potential uses of the Internet in sport psychology, describes several problems and potential unethical practices that must be considered when using the Internet, provides a rationale for the development of Internet standards, and proposes an initial set of ethical standards for the use of the Internet in sport psychology.
Consumer related computer technology seemingly changes on a daily basis. The Internet and other technologies also continue to grow and develop at a similarly estounding pace. As these changes occur, people continue to find new and innovative ways of utilizing these technological advancements for their personal and professional benefit. The field of sport psychology is not an exception to this trend. Professionals and laypersons both use the internet extensively in business, industry, communication, education and entertainment. The Internet provides a variety of services that enable individuals to obtain valuable information for their needs. These services are often rapid and inexpensive. The use of the Internet by sport psychology professionals has largely improved communication and the dissemination of information among professionals, students, and laypersons. These advancements in technology lead not only to positive consequences and the advancement of the field of sport psychology, but also bear ethical dilemmas, which are of interest to the sport psychology profession.
With the continuous development of new and more powerful forms of communication and information retrieval, it is inevitable that individuals in the field of sport psychology will harness these resources for personal and professional growth. The utilization of these resources can have both positive and negative effects upon the field of sport psychology, and the clients that are served. In order to excentuate the benefit of this technology and minimize the pitfalls, guidelines should be developed to help structure the manner in which the Internet is used. This Position Stand (a) provides a rationale for the continued study of the Internet as a viable means of service delivary in sport psychology, (b) outlines several developments related to the use of the Internet in sport psychology, (c) describes several problems and potential unethical practices related to the use of the Internet in sport psychology, (d) identifies a need for the development of Internet ethical standards within the field of sport psychology, and (e) provides a list of potential ethical standards to guide the use of the Internet in sport psychology.
The Use of the Internet in Sport Psychology:
The need for Empirical Support The effectiveness of the Internet in providing sport psychology services to athletes and coaches has not yet been sufficiently studied. Many sport psychology practitioners believe that the Internet has the potential to assist athletes and coaches in achieving a heightened level of proficiency. However, there are several issues related to the use of the Internet for professional consultation that have not been researched, and need to be examined. There are several crucial questions related to the use of the Internet that need to be answered before one can use and provide services which meet reliable, professional, and ethical standards. Questions such as “what effects do Internet based sport psychology services have on athletes?”, “how does one assure that the sercices provided are appropriately used?” and “how confident can one be that negative effects are not experienced by the recipients of the services?”
Sophisticated and reliable methodology is required to account for all of the positive, neutral, and negative consequences that such services may have upon clients. Some attempts have already been made. For example, Walther and Burgoon (1992) and Colon (1996) have shown that individuals and groups responded positively to the psychological services provided to them via the Internet. Their responses were similar to those of individuals and groups who were provided ‘regular’ psychological service (i.e., working ‘face to face’ with a consultant). In the future, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary investigations should be conducted to study how psychologists, sport psychologists, and clients can most benefit from the use of the Internet in the application of services.
Potential Uses of the Internet in Sport Psychology
The Internet and its related technology can be utilized within the field of sport psychology in many different ways. The following section briefly outlines several of the potential uses of the Internet in an academic field such as sport psychology. It should be noted that the list of uses of the Internet in sport psychology is in actuallity much greater than is mentioned in this article.
Marketing and the Dissemination of Information
One of the keys to the development of any business is marketing. Effective marketing strategies enable potential consumers to become aware of the quality and types of services available to them. The Internet can serve as an efficient and effective means of disseminating information to consumers. Marketing strategies commonly include the development of WWW home pages, and advertisements on web sites, search engines and bulletin boards. These WWW web sites go one step further than traditional marketing approaches, and provide a forum for question and answer services, self-help psycho-educational resources (e.g., imagery and goal setting exercises), and the procurement of professional resources (e.g., books, videos, tapes).
Distance Learning, Guidance and Supervision
Presently, several universities and organizations provide distance learning opportunities in sport psychology over the Internet. Through the use of web sites, individuals are able to learn about course assignments, read the necessary text assignments, watch lectures, ask questions of professors and classmates, receive instructional guidance, and turn in assignments. These opportunities allow individuals to live and work in one geographic area of the world, and take specific classes offered in other geographic locations to round out their knowledge base.