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Does Technology Make it Easier for Kids to Cheat?

A recent study of more than 2,000 parents and students (grades 7-12) conducted by Common Sense Media on cell phone usage inside and out of school revealed some alarming statistics about teens and their high-tech habits.

It’s no surprise that the poll found more than 83% of teens in this demographic own cell phones. Although most parents want their kids to have cell phones for use in emergencies only, the study found them to be “oblivious” to the extent to which the phones are being used. While only 23% of parents think that their kids are using the phones at school, in actuality, 65% of kids admitted to doing so. And for the kids who are indeed using them during school, are they ever. Common Sense found that teens, on average, send 440 texts in an average week and more than three texts per class.

This widespread and non-step cell phone usage also begs the question of how else the phones are being used. With the sheer volume of information that can be accessed through any current cell phone nowadays, the study also took a deeper look at how kids are taking advantage of this freedom to cheat in school.

More than half of teens (52%) admitted to some form of cheating involving the Internet, with 38% having copied text from websites and turning it in as their own work. And while these numbers are high, what may be more alarming is that 23% don’t think that storing notes on a cell phone and accessing them during a test is cheating at all. Similarly, 19% don’t think that downloading a paper from the Internet and turning it in is cheating either.

So, what’s a parent to do? As an adjunct to the study, Common Sense Media is offering advice that parents should heed when dealing with cell phone usage and their kids:

  • Be aware that when you hand your children phones, you’re giving them communications superpowers. Gone are the days when kids used cell phones just to talk. They text, take pictures and videos, and sometimes access the Internet.
  • Do your homework. Make sure you understand what that technology is capable of doing, and make restrictions. Just because their friends have phones that can search the Internet doesn’t mean your kids have to have the same capabilities.
  • Don’t assume that your children automatically know what’s right and wrong. Establish rules about use right from the start.
  • If you suspect your child is cheating, consider checking the phone. But be aware that this is big-league snooping. Establish expectations with your children ahead of time by letting them know that if you think something’s amiss, you’re going to check it out.
  • Review school policies. Tell your children you expect them to live by the established rules. Review the school consequences -- from having to redo a paper to expulsion -- and set up some additional home consequences for any violations.
  • Even if you think they would never cheat, have the talk. You can ask your kids if they know of anyone who’s cheated (they’ll be more likely to talk about others than themselves). It never hurts to reinforce that digital cheating is still cheating.



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