Cheating at School

Cheating is reaching epidemic proportions among teenagers. Recent studies have shown that almost 70% of teens have cheated during a test at school, and more than 80% have copied someone else’s homework at least once. More than one third of teens with cell phones admit to having stored information on them to look at during a test or texting friends about answers. As teens age, they are more likely to cheat – 17-year-olds are much more likely to cheat than 12-year-olds. Also, teens with friends who have cheated are much more likely to be tempted to cheat as well. Unfortunately, most teenagers report that cheaters don’t get caught. Most of these teens seem to understand that cheating is wrong, but still engage in the behavior. Some teens seem confused about what constitutes cheating.

So, with these troubling statistics, what’s a parent to do? Be sure to talk to your teen to define all the behaviors that are cheating, explain the consequences of cheating, and help steer your child back on the right path if they get caught. This may seem self-explanatory to parents, but you must provide your teen with character education if you expect them to follow your values.

Define Cheating

Parents should take the time to spell out exactly what behaviors are considered cheating, so there’s no room for misunderstanding. Be clear that cheating is technically stealing because you are taking someone else’s work and calling it your own. Here are some examples of cheating:

  • Using other’s work or answers on examinations, tests, or quizzes
  • Copying material for a paper from a person, the Internet, a publication, or a group that provides pre-written papers (called web paper mills)
  • Copying someone else’s homework
  • Making up or otherwise using inaccurate or false data, including citing made-up sources
  • Having someone else take an exam or test for you
  • Collaborating on an assignment that was meant to be completed by an individual
  • Using a cheat sheet, crib notes, cell phone, or looking at another person’s work while taking an examination, test, or quiz
  • Getting an advance copy of an examination, test, or quiz from someone who has already taken it
  • Helping or assisting someone else to do any of these things

Consequences of Cheating

Parents need to spell out the consequences to cheating. Without that type of forethought, teens may think “this isn’t hurting anyone” or “I’ll just do this one time”. Open their eyes to all that cheating truly means:

Cheating is unfair to others. By cheating, you are making other students who work hard for their grades compete with someone who hasn’t made an effort. You are also presenting yourself as having certain abilities. If someone (such as a teacher or a future employer) depends on you based on the idea that you have those abilities, you will set yourself up for failure and disappoint those people who believe in you.

Cheating is unfair to you. When you work hard for something and achieve your goals, it builds your self-esteem and self-confidence. Cheating actually tells your inner self that you do not believe in yourself – that you can’t make it on your own.

Cheating makes the next learning step harder. School builds on the basics. You learn your multiplication tables first so that when you get to fractions you are able to do the math. If you cheat on the basics, then you will have to cheat again to pass the next step. It’s much easier to learn the steps in progressive order to be successful.

Cheating kills trust. If you are caught cheating, then your teachers and parents will always have a hard time trusting you, even if you never cheat again. You will always carry that label on your head. If you cheat often, it becomes a habit that defines you as a person. You will have a hard time ever doing the hard work it takes to be successful in college and/or in a career.

Cheating causes stress. Whenever we do something wrong – lying, cheating, stealing – it takes an inordinate amount of energy to hide our wrongdoing, plus we spend energy worrying about getting caught. All of the worrying creates unnecessary stress in our lives.

Responding if your Teen is Accused of Cheating

If your teen is accused of cheating, you need to get him or her back on track. Many times, as a parent, our first response to any accusation is to defend our child! But considering the troubling number of teens who are cheating, it would be more helpful to stay calm and collect more information before jumping to any conclusions. For example, if your child’s teacher notifies you that your child cheated, talk to your child and get their side of the story first. Then set up an appointment with your teen’s teacher and learn as much as you can about the situation – what happened, how, when, and what does the teacher think might have led to the cheating?

When determining an appropriate punishment, take into account whether it was your teen’s first time, whether the class he or she is in is too difficult for him or her, whether peer pressure was involved, and how the school will handle the situation. These factors should make a difference in how you handle the situation at home.

Make sure that your child knows how to organize his or her homework and manage his or her time. These are important skills that will help him or her be successful throughout life, but they need to be taught. If your child has poor organization and time management skills, it can make a big difference in his or her ability to study.

Additionally, consider what actions you might be able to take as the parent. You should be role modeling honesty and integrity. If a friend cheats on their tax return, you should tell your teens you don’t agree with this behavior. If you find a wallet full of money, make a point of turning it in. You should also be communicating that you love your child for who he or she is, not for their grades. Too much grade pressure on your child could spur them to desperate measures to please you.

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  • Recognize when to be concerned. Sometimes, excessive lying, stealing, or cheating can mean that your child has a behavior problem that you should be concerned about. If your child consistently lies or steals and does not feel bad about it, destroys other people’s property, shoplifts, skips school often, does not have many friends, or is deliberately mean to animals, you should talk to his pediatrician and the school counselor. It is possible that he has conduct disorder or another behavioral problem that needs to be addressed. Or, these could be signs that he has a learning or developmental disability, or is being bullied. These problems are not your or his fault, and with the help of the right professional he can overcome them.

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