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Why Do Kids Cheat? Facts About Cheating

Experts say cheating in schools is an epidemic, but most parents think their kid would never do it. Below are facts about cheating from Dr. Eric M. Anderman of The Ohio State University.

Facts about Cheating:

  • Cheating is more common among adolescents than many people believe. Studies estimate that as many as 85% of students engage in some type of academic dishonesty before graduating from high school.
  • Cheating rates have risen, and continue to be high.
  • Most cheaters believe that they won’t get caught, and most don’t get caught.
  • Technology has increased the ways in which students can engage in cheating behaviors.
  • Cheating is associated with certain characteristics: impulsivity, low levels of academic confidence, and attending a school where the belief is that “everyone cheats.”
  • Cheating is generally unrelated to moral development.

Ways to Reduce Cheating:

  • One of the strongest predictors of cheating is a focus (by teachers and parents) on grades and test scores.
  • Students are less likely to cheat in classrooms where teachers emphasize learning for the sake of learning; in other words, when “mastery” of the academic material is what is stressed (more so than grades), students are less likely to cheat.
  • Teachers can decrease the amount of cheating that occurs by not stressing students out about grades; of course grades and test scores matter and are important, but that shouldn’t be the focus of discussion. Students shouldn’t be told they have to learn something “because there is a test on Friday;” rather, students should be told the need to learn something because of the inherent value of the topic.
  • When parents see that schools are focusing too much on grades and test scores and causing stress and anxiety in their children, parents should discuss these concerns with teachers and school administrators.

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Dr. Eric M. Anderman is Director of the School of Educational Policy and Leadership and Professor of Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University.  His area of research is adolescent motivation; he focuses in particular on (a) academic cheating, (b) the effects of school transitions on student motivation, and (c) HIV/pregnancy prevention in adolescent populations. He recently edited the book