Students say using tech to cheat isn’t cheating

A new poll conducted by the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media suggests that students are using cell phones and the internet to cheat on school exams. What’s surprising, however, is not just the alarming number of students who say they cheat, but also the number of students who think it’s OK to do so.

Common Sense Media commissioned the research and consulting firm Benenson Strategy Group to conduct a poll of teenagers and parents on the use of digital media for cheating in school.

The Benenson Strategy Group conducted a total of 1,013 nationally representative online interviews with students in grades 7-12, and 1,002 online interviews with parents of seventh through 12th-grade students, between May 28 and June 5. The surveys included 846 teens with cell phones and 839 parents of teens who have cell phones. Twenty-eight students and 27 parents also agreed to be interviewed more extensively.

According to the poll, more than a third of teens with cell phones (35 percent) admit to cheating at least once with them, and two-thirds of all teens (65 percent) say others in their school cheat with them.

Of the teens who admit to cheating with their cell phones, 26 percent say they store information on their phone to look at during a test, 25 percent text friends about answers during a test, 17 percent take pictures of the test to send to friends, and 20 percent search the internet for answers during tests using their phones.

Also, nearly half (48 percent) of teens with cell phones call or text their friends to warn them about pop quizzes.

What’s more, just over half of students polled (52 percent) admitted to some form of cheating involving the internet.

Twenty-one percent of students say they’ve downloaded a paper or report from the internet to turn in, while 50 percent have seen or heard about others doing this; 38 percent have copied text from web sites and turned it in as their own work, while 60 percent have seen or heard this; and 32 percent have searched for teachers’ manuals or publishers’ solutions to problems in textbooks they are currently using; while 47 percent have seen or heard this.

Even more concerning is that many students do not consider this behavior as cheating. Only about half of students polled admit that cell phone use during tests is a serious cheating offense, and just 16 percent say calling or texting friends to warn them of a pop quiz is cheating; instead, they believe they’re simply helping a friend.

Students who cheat using the internet generally view plagiarism as more serious an offense than other types of cheating, yet more than a third of teens (36 percent) said downloading a paper from the internet was not a serious offense, and 42 percent said coping text from web sites was a either a minor offense or not cheating at all.

Meris Stansbury

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