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Cheating is when a person misleads, deceives, or acts dishonestly on purpose. For kids, cheating may happen at school, at home, or while playing a sport.  Cheating is so tempting, because it makes difficult things seem easy.  In many cases, cheating only makes the original situation worse.  For example, cheating on a test might help you pass the test, but it will not help you to understand or comprehend the information.  Cheating is a bad choice, and there are many negative consequences that could follow cheating.

Other Names and Terms: mislead, con, deceptive

Trends Concerning Cheating: Because cheating trends are on the rise in the United States, parents, guardians, youth workers, and children should be aware of trends related to the topic. They should also be prepared to discuss them.  The following trends are important to remember:

  • Academic cheating is defined as representing someone else's work as your own. It can take many forms, including sharing another's work, purchasing a term paper or test questions in advance, paying another to do the work for you, downloading the assignment from the internet, or copying someone’s homework answers down.
  • Research about cheating among middle school children (Ages 12-14) has shown that: There is increased motivation to cheat because there is more emphasis on grades; Even those students who say it is wrong, cheat; If the goal is to get a good grade, they will cheat.
  • Cheating may begin in elementary school when children break or bend the rules to win competitive games against classmates. It peaks during high school when about 75% of students admit to some sort of academic wrong doing.
  • Cheating has the potential to increase due to pressure for high grades.
  • Math and Science are the courses in which cheating most often occurs.
  • Computers and technology can make cheating easier than ever before. For example, students can download term papers and other assignments from the internet.
  • Grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students.

Key points of Discussion: Parents, guardians, youth workers, and friends are ideal to help understand and deal with issues involving cheating.  Listed below are key points that might be useful in discussing cheating:

  • Stay cool. Don’t ignore the issue of cheating, but try not to overreact.  If you overreact, you may risk the opportunity to have an open, honest discussion about the real reason the student chose to cheat.
  • Let your child know you are disappointed, but follow that up with a calm, measured discussion, which includes questions like this: “Would you feel better getting a good grade because you earned it or because you copied someone’s paper?” “How would you feel if you found out that (name a hero or role model) had cheated?”   “How would you feel if someone was copying from a paper that you worked hard on?” Do not ask questions that could be answered with yes or no.
  • Look for the reasons behind the cheating.  Was this a one-time mistake or a call for help from a stressed-out kid?
  • Show your child that you support the school’s consequences, but at the same time truly care how he is dealing with the whole situation. You will send a clear message that the cheating was wrong and you are invested in helping him move past it.  Learning why your child cheated should give you some tools to help.   Options at that point might include trimming down the extracurricular activity list, enlisting the help of a tutor, or simply having a talk about the importance of honesty.

Talking to Children: Cheating is a very important topic to discuss with your children.  Cheating on a test, plagiarizing on a research paper, looking at another child’s paper and copying their information, or cheating while playing a game are all examples of possible ways they may choose.  Not only will they suffer the negative consequences if they are caught, they will have to deal with their own guilt.  Teaching your children honesty is the best policy, will help keep them out of bad situations.  Children may cheat for several reasons:

  • The task may be too difficult.
  • They may feel the need to win.
  • Their own personal expectations may be unrealistic, etc.

Parents are their children’s first teachers, and modeling positive and healthy behavior is a very important and powerful way to reach them.  Whether or not your child has been caught and disciplined for cheating, you should discuss the topic and the consequences associated. 

  • They may get caught, and adults will view them as an untrustworthy child.  Usually, the chances of them being accused of other negative behavior are higher.
  • Other children may treat them differently.  Their reputation and trustworthiness may be compromised among their peers and adults.
  • They are cheating themselves out of an education and a learning experience.  Whether they cheat on a test or while playing a game, if they cheat they will not know how well they could have done without cheating.

Risk Factors and Warning Signs:

  • If your child comes home with unusually high grades, and you know they do not demonstrate mastery of the subject/questions.
  • If your child’s language on class work/homework does not reflect their level of understanding.

Coping Skills and Techniques:

  • 5-6- At this age children are still figuring out their identity.  Giving them a hands-on opportunity to see what may be considered cheating, while playing a game, is a great way to show them what you are talking about.  Exposing children and not being too hard on them at this stage is important. 
  • 7-11- At this age children are more aware of what cheating is, how to do it, and what the possible consequences are.  Asking them what they think cheating is, providing examples of different ways of cheating, and asking them for possible consequences is a perfect way to evaluate their understanding.  Having an open discussion with them, guiding them, and establishing clear expectations can make all the difference.