Five Ways for Parents to Prevent Cheating in School

The following comes from “What We Know and What We Can Do” by Patrick F. Drinin and Tricia Bertran, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2009).  I am grateful that I have been given permission to make it available to the readers of this website.

#1- Acknowledge that your child is capable of cheating.
In a class study in the early twentieth century, researchers found that most cheating done by youth is situational. This means that cheating can sometimes be more contingent on the opportunities for and benefits of cheating than on an individual’s character. In other words, every child is capable of being drawn into cheating in school–good people make bad decisions all of the time. Your child will face multiple opportunities and temptations for cheating. Perhaps she has a teacher who doesn’t closely monitor student behavior during tests. Or, perhaps he feels a lot of pressure to do as well in school as his older brother. And then there is the internet–such a handy resource for copying and pasting rather than wasting time thinking! If you can acknowledge that your child is capable of academic cheating, then you can take steps to mitigate those opportunities, temptations, and benefits.

#2- Reduce temptations and pressures at home that may unintentionally invite cheating.
As a parent, you are the teacher outside of the classroom. For the most part, you are the person monitoring the student’s homework and assignment completion and so there is much you can do to mitigate opportunities, temptations, and benefits of cheating. You could, for example, emphasize for your child that learning and effort are far more important than grades. Students who are pressured to receive certain grades are much more likely to resort to cheating than students who are encouraged to learn and grow from their experiences. You could establish the baseline for homework and assignments–that they are to be done individually with some tutoring assistance. Many parents may find themselves crossing the line between being their child’s tutor and doing their child’s homework for them. Finally, restrict your child’s access to the internet so that she does not develop an unhealthy dependence on the tool as the source for all the answers. Many of the college students we see who are reported for cheating simply have a bad habit of looking on the internet for information to complete their assignments before they have even thought about it themselves! Encourage your child to think first and to struggle through assignments on their own. The internet should only be used to research what other people say about a topic, not to find the answer for a particular homework question.

#3 – Respond to cheating when it does occur.
If you find yourself in a situation where your child is accused of cheating, resist the temptation to rescue your child or shift the blame to the school or teacher. To be sure, sometimes the school or the teacher may share the blame for not creating a healthy ethical environment (see tip #4 below), but the true lesson to be learned about honesty and integrity is how do we maintain it despite the environment in which we work, study or live. In this light, your child’s cheating incident can be a powerful moment for learning about the importance of ethics and integrity and it should be responded to in this manner. Most schools, colleges and universities have a graduated sanctioning process where the first violation by a student will not permanently harm their academic progress (this of course depends on the egregiousness of the violation). So, if your child did indeed violate academic integrity standards by, for example, plagiarizing, copying during a test, or copying homework, respond in a way that teaches the students that there are costs to our unethical choices and that there are usually ethical alternatives that could have been chosen.

#4- Ask your child’s school what they are doing about student cheating.
Many students cheat because it is normative, that is, “everyone is doing it.” So, if you want to prevent your child from resorting to cheating, then you may want to inquire with your child’s school to find out what they are doing to reduce cheating and enhance academic integrity. A healthy ethical environment is the best way to support your child in making ethical decisions and acting in an ethical manner. Push the school to act and implement structures, programs, and processes for academic integrity if they do not already have them. Complain about teachers who allow cheating to happen in their classrooms.

#5- Engage in conversations about academic integrity and the harm of student cheating.
In our book, Cheating in School, we identify that a lack of conversation is one of the main factors that has shaped the student cheating phenomenon in schools, colleges, and universities. We simply do not talk about academic integrity and ethics often enough. In our quest for academic success (defined by grade point averages and graduation rates) and our fear of leaving any child “behind,” we have neglected to emphasize that the ends do not justify the means. We have neglected to emphasize for students that a grade point average, diploma or degree is not worth anything if they are the result of cheating. If you talk to your child often about the importance of integrity and ethics, and model it with your own behavior, your child will listen. Multiple conversations between students, parents, teachers and administrators need to occur if we are going to find our way forward, reduce cheating in school, and enhance our children’s learning.