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Academic cheating, aided by cellphones or Web, shown to be common

June 17, 2009 |  9:01 pm

Cheating

Sign in 2005 at a Santa Monica school where students were caught using a computer to cheat.

Teenagers are, if nothing else, are extremely resourceful. A survey by Common Sense Media of more than 1,000 students ages 13 to 18 found that more than a third said they'd used cellphones to cheat at least once. In addition, about 38% said they'd copied text directly from the Web and turned it in as their own work.

Other ingenious forms of cheating include storing notes on a cellphone, using camera phones to take pictures of tests to send to classmates and text-messaging friends for answers. The incidence of cheating is the same for honors students and non-honors students, the survey found.

These students are redefining digital ethics. One in four said they thought looking up notes on a cellphone did not constitute cheating. One in five felt it was perfectly ethical to text-message friends or to copy and paste text from the Internet. Shocking!

Interestingly, more than 76% of parents who participated in the survey believe that cheating using technology was rampant, but only a tiny fraction -- 3% to 7% -- said their own children cheat.

Text-messaging is also widespread among this crowd, regardless of whether schools have policies banning cellphone use. The average teenager sends 440 texts a week, 110 of them during class, according to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit advocacy group that studies the effect of digital media on children and families. That translates to about three text messages each class period.

"Kids have always found ways to cheat in school," the group said in a statement. "But the tools they now have at their disposal are more powerful than ever."

-- Alex Pham

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