The Cheating Child

Cheating in School

Parents are often devastated when they find out that their child copied someone else's homework or peeked over a classmate's shoulder during an exam. But it's actually more common than you think. According to a 2001 survey of 4,500 high school students by Donald L. McCabe, a Rutgers University professor, 97 percent of the respondents admitted to at least one activity that would be considered questionable when it comes to academic integrity. So why do so many kids cheat? Most cheating episodes fall into one of two categories:

  • They're trying to live up to expectations. Kids are under a great deal of pressure to perform well in school. Many children believe that their entire future rests on their grades. If parents or teachers expect them to always to perform exceedingly well, then cheating can become a self-defense mechanism under the strain of this tremendous pressure. A child may feel that she has no other option than to cheat as a means of achieving success.
  • They just don't feel like doing the work. Technology can be a double-edged sword. The Internet, PDAs, and cell phones help make children's lives more organized. But these gizmos have also made cheating a lot easier than it ever was when we were in school. The Internet has spawned an entire industry dedicated to the "sharing" of prewritten papers. And kids can e-mail answers to one another through PDAs. Some children have a natural tendency to do the least amount of work necessary to get something done. Now, it's easier than ever for them to pawn off someone else's work as their own.

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