Cyber Cheating Abounds

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Kids Today / USA Today
Cover story

Jack knew he could get away with it. He quietly picked up Megan’s class work disk, slipped it into the computer, copied it, and typed his name over hers. He was sure to pass the assignment now.

But he didn’t count on one thing: Mrs. Birecki. She had a precise filing system and within a day caught Jack. His punishment: Stay after school for a week and do the work again, for no credit.

“He said he did it because he could,” says Wynette Birecki, the computer teacher at Sun Valley Elementary School in Peoria, Ariz.

The disk story (a true tale with the names changed) is an example of the trouble kids can get into with technology. But then, most everyone has heard stories about students writing answers on arms, copying from each other, and passing notes under desks. Now, a new type of trickery has opened up: Cyber cheating.

“I can see how a kid would decide he didn’t want to do his math homework and would type 10 problems onto the chat line
and ask someone to solve them,” says Ben Greenman, co-author of “Net Chat,” an Internet info book.

To kids’ credit, very few students cheat on purpose. “Not many people do it,” says KT Insider Mamie Lynch, 11, of Wilmington. Del. “If they do it’s because their parents would get mad if they get bad grades.”

Most of the time, kids get into trouble by accident. They don’t write down the book they got from, or they use someone else’s ideas as their own.

These problems become a bigger issue online. Instead of copying an article out of an encyclopedia, you can print it with the push of one button. There is even new software that will write your paper for you. And although there aren’t many cyber rules besides “do your own work,” that is changing.

“I can see this becoming a greater problem when students have access to the Internet at school,” says Jim Thompson, principal of the Wolcott School in Leroy, N.Y. “There will need to be safeguards—and consequences if the rules are broken.”