YouTube tests students' desire to cheat

More than 3,000 "how to cheat" videos are posted on YouTube alone, encouraging bad behavior in otherwise good kids.

CBS Interactive staff Special to CNET News
2 min read

Texas college freshman "Kiki"--she asked CBS News not to use her real name--hopes to become an online star with her "How to Cheat on a Test" video.

"This method of cheating, it will work," she says in her online video.

She told CBS News science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg, "Um, like, I didn't know it was going to be kind of controversial."

There are more than 3,000 "how to cheat" videos on YouTube alone. Some are silly, using elastic bands. Others get creative with clothing. The most sophisticated turn soda bottle wrappers into detailed cheat sheets.

"It's a 21st-century form of showing your friends how cool you are," said John Palfrey, the author of a book about the digital generation.

There are worse videos online--showing drug use and fighting--but these cheat videos encourage bad behavior in otherwise good kids.

"I don't think I have any regrets. It's just, like, I posted that video for fun, you know, I was really bored one day and wanted to post it out of amusement," Kiki said.

"James," a ninth-grader from New Jersey, posted a series of cheat videos. He makes no apologies, but he doesn't want to be identified, either.

"Do you worry that anything you're doing is wrong or going to have some consequences later?" Sieberg asked him.

"I think it might, if people figure out this is me," he said. "But if they don't, I think it's fine."

Policing YouTube is virtually impossible. Thirteen hours of video are posted every minute. Guidelines ask for "no bad stuff," and if there are enough complaints, the video could be taken down.

But YouTube itself doesn't screen for immoral or illegal behaviors, making it easy for adolescents to indulge their worst impulses.

"Young people are going to wake up some years later and say, 'Gosh, I wish when someone Googled my name they didn't see that.' And it will be sort of like a tattoo on their arm, something they want to remove but will be very, very hard to get rid of," Palfrey said.

And is James afraid of getting caught?

"No. I don't think that's ever going to happen," he said.

James has had second-thoughts and has taken his videos down, perhaps worried about consequences down the road.

"I actually want to become a lawyer," he said.

He may want to brush up on his ethics first.