Q. What is behind the sharp increase in cheating among high school students, and what can their parents and teachers do about it?

It is true that cheating is rampant and on the rise among students today. Several factors seem to be contributing to this phenomenon. Although the Internet has provided ready access to research materials, there is a greater temptation to “lift” whole passages—and sometimes even entire papers. Some students may not even recognize that such information is not theirs to use as they please without proper acknowledgement. But among those who do realize they are cheating, it can be easy to rationalize their behavior because of a more relaxed attitude about breaking rules in general. Students today are far less fearful of authority figures and their consequences. Lastly, because of the increased competition today, cheating is often one manifestation of students’ determination to excel at any cost. (The most highly performing students often get away with cheating because achievement is often equated with moral superiority.)

Teachers in high schools and colleges are increasingly using computer programs that identify plagiarism. At home, parents can help by creating the attitude that the learning process is as or more important than the grade. Also, it is wise to monitor Internet use, ask where information came from, and teach teens how to give proper credit for others’ ideas. When girls are asked for their opinions—rather than simply factual information—they are forced to do their own thinking. Plagiarism is thereby discouraged. Finally, consequences for cheating should clearly communicate it won’t be tolerated.

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