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Teen cheating morphs with new tech, poll shows

More than half of teens polled say they've used the Internet to cheat at school; 35 percent admit to using cell phones. Some don't even consider it cheating.

Parents have yet another reason for a long, hard talk with their kids. More than half of teens admit to using the Internet to cheat, a new poll shows, while 35 percent say they've used their cell phones.

The results were released Thursday by Common Sense Media, which commissioned research firm Benenson Strategy Group to conduct the poll.

The report (PDF) uncovered several alarming trends. More than 38 percent of teens say they've copied content from the Internet and presented it as their own work, while 21 percent have downloaded an actual paper to turn in as their own. Around 65 percent say they've seen other students cheat on tests using their cell phones.

Common Sense Media

Many teens don't even see this behavior as wrong, according to the poll. Among those asked, 36 percent say that downloading a paper from the Internet was not a serious offense; 42 percent believe that copying text from Web sites was either a minor offense or not cheating at all. And 22 percent of those asked didn't feel that reading from notes on a cell phone during a test is cheating.

Common Sense Media

"Cell phones and the Internet have been a real game-changer for education and have opened up many avenues for collaboration, creation, and communication," said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. "But as this poll shows, the unintended consequence of these versatile technologies is that they've made cheating easier."

Parents may also be naive in thinking that while other kids cheat, their own don't. The poll found that 92 percent of parents believe cell phone cheating happens at their kids' schools, but only 3 percent believe their own teen has ever used a cell phone to cheat. And 79 percent of parents say that kids download papers from the Internet as their own work, but only 7 percent believe their own teen has ever done this.

Common Sense Media offers the following tips for parents:

• Do your homework. Be aware of the technology that kids use every day.

• Don't assume that kids automatically know what's right or wrong. They need you to set the rules.

• Review school policies with them.

• Address the issue with your kids so the consequences of cheating are fully understood.

Common Sense Media's site offers additional advice to help parents deal with this issue.

To conduct the poll, Benenson interviewed 2,015 students and parents across the U.S. in May and early June. The margin of error is about 3 percent.