I was told of a recent incident where a friend’s kids were embroiled in a cheating scandal that shook their middle school. It seems that a few students witnessed others using electronic devices to look up answers to the test questions – unbeknownst to the teacher. The witnesses, my friend’s kids included, were disgusted with their classmates and informed the teacher. This started a firestorm between the alleged-cheaters and the suspected-snitches. They hurled accusations and threats at each other via Snapchat, which turned the situation into a cyber bullying incident. It was a hot mess for parents and school officials to navigate.
Trying to turn a negative to a positive, I used this as a teaching moment with my own kids. Luckily mine agreed right away that the snitches were in the right to report the cheaters. They believe whole-heartedly that cheating is not fair to those who study. So then the conversation turned to why students cheat. We decided to do some research to educate ourselves. This is what we found:
- Cheaters are generally kids who are only focused on the grades. They are not intellectually curious or interested in learning.
- As schools have implemented Bring Your Own Device policies, cheating techniques have evolved to taking photos, hidden Internet searches and voice notes in earphones. Some teachers are giving tests online which makes the temptation to cheat overwhelming.
- Students cheat when they are stressed. Too many tests in a short period of time, pressure to get into a good university, and high expectations from parents are all causes of stress. I will admit this gave me pause for thought. My husband and I have high expectations of our kids. As parents, we must skate the fine line between gentle pressure on our kids to do their best in school and too much pressure to excel.
- Many kids succumb to peer pressure to cheat. If “everyone is doing it,” they feel like goody two-shoes if they do not follow.
- Parents should regularly monitor grades and try to help when their child is falling behind in a subject. Keeping the lines of communication open alleviates the buildup of pressure that can lead to the need to cheat.
I finished the research and conversation with my girls in a relatively frenzied state of parental panic. I was wondering if I was doing enough, or even too much, to discourage cheating. Ultimately experts seem to agree that the best thing parents can do is lead by example. We can avoid cheating, lying and being unscrupulous. Demonstrating integrity goes a long way. Not that I am morally corrupt, but suffice it to say that this whole cheating-snitching ordeal have moved into first item priority on my New Year’s Resolutions.