How to talk to kids about cheating

Cheating ramps up during middle school, where just over 60 percent of students reported cheating on exams and 90 percent admitted to copying another students’ homework,” writes Jessica Lahey. In high school, 75 percent of students admit to academic dishonesty. Parents should talk to their children about cheating.

Don’t assume your child understands the difference between collaborating and cheating, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brush up on the definition of plagiarism and the reason we give others credit for their work. Discuss the realities of cheating: Academic dishonesty can destroy her reputation as an honorable person, not to mention her relationships with teachers.

Next, ask why she’s cheating and discuss your concerns with the teacher, Lahey advises. Most parents resort to denial when their child is accused of cheating.  Admitting it will “go a long way toward reinforcing the partnership between you and your child’s teacher.”

Don’t help too much with homework. One in five adults admits completing part of a child’s homework assignment.  “Let your child discover her own answers.”

Finally, if you catch your child cheating, don’t cover for her. Take this opportunity, while she is still young and the stakes are still low, to hold her accountable for the consequences of her actions.

Lisa Heffernan, writer of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, offers advice for parents: Convince your kids they’d rather face “my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade rather than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass.”

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  1. The ETS cheating fact sheet she linked to is 14 years old. Middle schoolers cited on that sheet have graduated from college.

    Almost all of this is in the schools’ control. It is useless to plead with parents to behave in ways the schools see as virtuous. That has never worked. The schools, however, can remove most of the temptation to cheat, and can enact disincentives to cheat.

    First: don’t grade homework. Assign homework, yes, but let it be preparation for class, and practice of concepts learned in class.

    Second: Teachers on a grade-level team must coordinate homework loads and due dates. If every teacher must assign an hour of homework on Tuesday, the kid with 6 classes will face 6 hours of homework, due to be graded on Wednesday. If he or she has extracurriculars–which all the students with ambitions for college will have–or a part-time job–which many high school students will have–he or she does not have six hours to complete said homework.

    Third: Don’t give extra credit for artsy-crafty extra effort. Would you devote class time to gluing glitter on things? No? Why would you require a student to devote homework time to scissors, glue, and crayons? Because I guarantee you, this is a point at which most parents will get “involved,” and they won’t see it as a moral failing on their part, because they see it as pointless, non-academic busywork. (And they’re right.)

    Fourth: Devote serious class time to communicating expectations vis a vis academic honesty. Let students know that you will Google phrases from submitted essays; you will use Turnitin, if available. Communicate your expectations to parents as well–and the tutors working in your community, many of whom may be retired teachers. Then, enact the consequences, when a student is caught.

    Fifth: Be alert for the ways in which your practices feed academic dishonesty. Do some students have copies of class notes from earlier years? Then distribute copies of class notes to everyone. Change exam and essay prompts from year to year. Take exam security seriously.

    Sixth: You should not be seeing cheating in middle school. If parents are colluding in cheating, why are they doing this? Examine your system’s own expectations, to find points which reward cheating, such as placement into honors courses in following grades.