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Kids and Cheating

What is cheating?

Cheating is commonly defined as when a person misleads, deceives, or acts dishonestly on purpose. Cheating comes in many forms:

  • iPods and other MP3 players can be loaded with test answers instead of music.
  • Cell phones can access the Web to look up answers.
  • Students can purchase work such as term papers on the Internet.
  • Some students use crib notes. They sneak answers in on their hand, a piece of paper, or the bill of a baseball cap.
  • Children may copy someone else's work or answers.

One survey showed that 80% of students admitted to cheating at least once. Many educators believe that cheating has become an epidemic. In the age of school shootings and drug abuse, cheating is now seen as only a minor offense in comparison. However, the consequences of cheating can be serious and have long lasting effects on self esteem and achievement.

Why do kids cheat?

Most kids will tell you that they know cheating is wrong. While there is really no "good reason" for cheating, understanding why children cheat can help parents begin to help their kids make better choices. There are probably as many excuses for cheating as there are kids who cheat, but the following is a list of the most common excuses kids give for cheating:

  • Trying to please parents or teachers. Kids may fear the results of getting poor grades and cheat in order not to get in trouble, or to make their parents happy.
  • With increased competition and harder coursework, students may feel they have no choice but to cheat. Kids may feel a great deal of pressure to get good grades so they can get scholarships or to be accepted into a good college or grad school.
  • "Everyone else is doing it." When kids see other kids cheating and not getting caught, it could make them question the importance of honestly.
  • "School is hard." Cheating offers an easy way out.
  • Feeling overwhelmed with school work and extracurricular activities. Many kids are so overloaded with activities they don't think they have time to study.
  • Children don't like to lose. Learning how to lose is a hard lesson.

What are the consequences of cheating?

The consequences of cheating can be difficult to for a child to understand. Many times the perceived positives of cheating can seem to outweigh the negatives. It is very important to talk to your kids about cheating before it becomes a problem. Here are some messages to give your children:

  • Cheating will ultimately lower your self-respect.
  • It isn't fair to the other students who don't cheat.
  • People lose respect for people who cheat and think less of them.
  • If you find it easy to cheat now in school, you may find it easier to cheat in other situations in life.
  • Cheating violates the teachers trust.
  • Cheating is a lie. It makes people believe you know more than you actually know.
  • You'll never how well you could have done without cheating. It robs you of your self-confidence.
  • You may feel worried about getting caught and feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed.
  • Students who get caught cheating face serious consequences. Cheating kids can get in big trouble at school and at home.
  • In the end, you cheat yourself. You cheat yourself out of learning and out of giving yourself a chance to see how good you can really do.

What can parents do?

  • Discuss what cheating is. Very young children don't understand what cheating is, but by the time they are in elementary school they can understand the meaning of concepts like right, wrong, and fair. Have a discussion about what your expectations are. Review the school policy on cheating. Let them know that cheating is unacceptable. Its best if you can have this discussion before cheating becomes a problem.
  • Discuss why cheating is wrong and emphasize the negative consequences of cheating. Ignoring the problem gives them the message that it's OK.
  • If you discover that your child has cheated, find out why. You can just come right out and ask. It could be there is something troubling him. If you find out the reason you child is cheating is a personal one, not only try to help them with the problem, but also let the teacher know what is going on.
  • Remember that children are not "bad" just because they cheated. Let them know that you're disappointed with them, but that you still love them and that you're there to help.
  • Be an example. If your kids see you cheating on small things, like playing a game, cheating on your taxes, or not being honest with the clerk at the grocery store, you are giving them the message that cheating is OK. Make honesty a priority in your house.
  • Don't put too much pressure on getting good grades. Let them know that learning and doing their best are more important than earning good grades. Praise them for persistence and attitude. When at a sporting event, compliment the sportsmanship and the effort of the players rather than focusing on who won or lost.
  • Get involved in the learning process. Ask to see their schoolwork. Talk about what they're learning. Help them with their homework but don't do it for them or give them the answers. Spend time with them doing fun activities, not just educational activities.
  • Find ways for your child to feel competent in other areas of their life. The more self confident they feel, the less they'll need to win or achieve to build their self esteem.
  • Discuss peer pressure. Teach them ways to resist. Repeat this discussion regularly.
  • Look for ways the school can help promote the concepts of learning rather than just focusing on achievement. Establish a relationship with the teachers. Work with the schools to promote changes if you think that is necessary. Talk to the teachers about how to help your child feel successful without feeling the need to cheating.

What can teachers do?

  • Schools need to have a cheating policy and talk about it often.
  • Focus on learning and not just on achievement. Because of the pressure of state mandated standardized test, many teachers are feeling forced to teach to the test instead of teaching a child how to think.
  • Schools need to monitor cheating. Be alert to all the new forms of cheating that are available through technology. There are some computer programs that actually help a teacher detect plagiarism. Forbid cell phones, PDA's, and iPods in exam rooms.
  • Some schools have established an honor code or a code of ethics. They have school assemblies discussing the importance of honor, and even have each student sign a code of ethics.

Parents or other caregivers are the strongest influence on the child. Tell your child often how proud you are of them and how much you appreciate them, even when they make mistakes. Find ways to fill children with a love of learning.

Written by Judith J. Becerra, MS, LPC.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-05-23
Last reviewed: 2006-04-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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