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April 22, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Does Your Child Cheat?

It’s a copy/paste world for kids just looking to turn in the work with minimum hassle. Here's how to intervene.

Because of smart phones, it’s easier than ever for kids to cheat. From students receiving completed homework via a mass e-mail to answers popping up on iPhones during a test, cheating’s  text message away. Here are five ways to prevent your kids from falling into such temptation, assuring that they attend school to learn rather than to learn how to cheat!

1. Check your child’s homework every night.

A good sign that your child is cheating is the absence of substantive work. Naturally, kids say things like, “I finished my homework in study hall,” can claim they don’t have homework, and while that claim is possible, it is highly unlikely night after night. When kids never open books you should also be suspicious — they’re at least skipping the reading! Sure, teachers give materials online or as attachments, but again, students should be able to show how they completed those assignments, too.

2. Create a device-free zone of at least an hour a day for studying.

An argument kids make is that they need the computer to complete their assignment, and that’s often true. However, kids greatly exaggerate their need for the computer, and if you hold firm and fast to the one-hour rule, your child will easily be able to fill that time with studying and still have enough time with their various devices to complete their assignments. In fact, they are more likely to use their time wisely rather than dawdling in texts with friends.

3. Give your kids practice tests the day before an exam.

If you know what your child’s studying and can see the materials, then you can determine whether they are truly engaged in learning. If their materials are sparse or generated solely from websites, then you know he’s performing poorly.

4. Talk honestly and realistically about cheating.

You can’t be too self-righteous or judgmental about cheating. Acknowledge that cheating is prevalent, and understand that you are asking for your kids to be exceptional instead of conforming to a pervasive cheating culture. In other words, you will have to address some hard questions: “Mom, if I’m getting good grades and succeeding in school, what does it matter if I cheat? I’m learning how to succeed and thrive and isn’t that what school and life really about?”

These questions become particularly challenging when your kids complain about subjects far removed from their interests: “How is reading Hamlet now supposed to help me later?” Explain that mental conditioning of the brain is similar to physical conditioning of the body. We all need to do it to stay sharp, sort of thing. Will they agree with this? Probably not, but at least they’ll understand you are committed to their learning rather than their cheating.

5. Avoid clichés.

Do not tell your kids, “If you cheat, you only cheat yourself,” or, “Cheaters never prosper.” The truth is they do prosper. Cheaters may be ignorant and morally corrupt, but your kids have seen too many do well in school.

However, most kids will buy the argument that cheating will only get them so far. Ultimately, you have your own tough question to ask them: “What knowledge and skills will you have after you’re done cheating?”


Michael Hartnett has been a high school English teacher, college professor, and SAT instructor/tutor for more than 20 years.
He is the author of
The Great SAT Swindle.


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