Cheating isn’t new.  But the Internet has made it easier for kids to cheat on homework and tests, and plagiarize. 

Is Your Child Cheating? 

Almost half of all teens admit they’ve intentionally looked up answers to tests or assignments online, according to a June McAfee report. Yet, only a quarter of parents are concerned about their teens going online to cheat in school.  Nearly a quarter of kids have cheated on a test via online or mobile phones and only five percent of parents are aware. 

Learning a Life Skill 

What are all these students learning?  They are certainly not learning the material taught in class. They are learning how to be cheaters. This is a life skill they could do without. 

Learning how to be a cheater in school can then extend beyond the classroom into the real world. We’ve all been exposed at one time or another to the short-cut Charlie’s of the world, who cut corners at every turn. Most people want to work with someone who is hard-working, wants to do the best job possible and gives 110 percent all the time. We also prefer to work with someone who is a motivated learner and keeps up in his field. Isn’t that what we want for our kids, too? 

When kids learn to cheat at a young age and get the positive reward of a good grade, with Mom and Dad then heaping on the praise, aren’t they likely to make cheating a pattern of behavior throughout their life? Cheating behavior will eventually catch up to them, even if it’s just final exam-time or during the SATs where they will not be able to look up answers.  Or they may have a great transcript that gets them into a college that’s way over their head where they attempt to cheat and get thrown out. As I write this, Harvard University is in the midst of investigating a potential cheating scandal, where more than 100 undergraduate students are rumored to have cheated on a major take-home exam last spring.

The buck has to stop somewhere. Kids need to learn that hard work and effort are the real avenues to success and pride, now and down the road, in college and future employment.

Learning habits and life skills that kids use in school will translate to the everyday world today and throughout their lives. 

Why Does Cheating Affect Academic Success? 

Cheating negatively affects academic success in terms of both knowledge gained and values learned: 

  • Comprehension – Students may not understand the material taught in the classroom and get behind in class.
  • Critical Thinking Skills – They are not learning how to learn and work hard at solving a problem.
  • Work Ethic – Students who cheat learn that with minimal effort and cheating they can still pull out a decent grade.
  • Accountability and Self-Satisfaction – They never really own their work and feel a sense of accomplishment about the effort they’ve put into their work.
  • Peer Respect – Cheaters don’t earn the respect of their peers, who may feel resentment towards the cheaters for grades they didn’t deserve or earn.
  • Understanding of Consequences – Cheaters have little regard for getting caught, which could lead to a zero on a test or a zero on homework.
  • Trust – If a student is caught cheating, trust is destroyed between the student and teacher and it may be impossible to get it back. 

What can Parents do? 

  • Share your family values about personal honesty and cheating.  Cheating is a variation of lying.
  • Talk about the harm and negative consequences of cheating.
  • Stress the importance of hard work and doing their own work.  Communicate to your children that doing their best is what’s important, not just getting a good grade.
  • Check in and monitor your children when they’re doing their homework online to make sure they are not cheating.  Trust but verify.  If your children show that they are doing their own work, you will need to check in less.
  • Provide positive reinforcement for the hard work they are doing on their own.
  • Should your children get caught cheating, let themsuffer the consequences. Don’t bail them out.  This may be the best way to teach your children the negative effects of cheating.

Victoria Kempf, R.N., is a passionate internet safety expert, and co-founder and COO of ScreenRetriever, a children’s internet safety monitoring product that gives parents complete visibility of all of their children’s computer activity.


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