35% of Teens Admit to Using Cell Phones to Cheat

National Poll Reveals Students’ Attitudes Toward Hi-Tech Cheating and Highlights Need for Parents and Educators to Set Guidelines and Address Consequences
For immediate release
Thursday, June 18, 2009

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Read about this study in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Common Sense Media today released the results of a national poll on the use of digital media for cheating in school. The poll, conducted by The Benenson Strategy Group, revealed that more than 35% of teens admit to cheating with cell phones, and more than half admit to using the Internet to cheat. More importantly, many students don’t consider their actions to be cheating at all. The results highlight a real need for parents, educators, and leaders to start a national discussion on digital ethics.

“The results of this poll should be a wake-up call for educators and parents,” said James Steyer, CEO and founder of 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. But as this poll shows, the unintended consequence of these versatile technologies is that they’ve made cheating easier. The call to action is clear: Parents and educators have to be aware of how kids are using technology to cheat and then help our kids understand that the consequences for online cheating are just as serious as offline cheating.”

Kids have always found ways to cheat, but the tools they have today are more powerful than ever. In this poll, kids reveal that they're texting each other answers during tests, using notes and information stored on their cell phones during tests, and downloading papers from the Internet to turn in as their own work. Because the digital world is distant, hard to track, and mostly anonymous, kids are less likely to see the consequences of their online actions, especially when they feel they won’t get caught.

Common Sense Media is asking parents and educators to step in to help kids develop a set of guidelines to follow in the digital world and to understand that the rules of right and wrong in their offline lives also apply in their online lives. For parents, it’s important to understand and embrace the media their kids are using and have a frank discussion about cheating and its implications. Educators need to be hyper aware of the amount of hi-tech cheating happening in their schools, talk to students about it, and establish rules and consequences for the classroom that reflect the reality of our kids’ 24/7 media world.

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • 41% of teens say that storing notes on a cell phone to access during a test is a serious cheating offense, while 23% don’t think it’s cheating at all.
  • 45% of teens say that texting friends about answers during tests is a serious cheating offense, while 20% say it’s not cheating at all.
  • 76% of parents say that cell phone cheating happens at their teens’ schools, but only 3% believe their own teen has ever used a cell phone to cheat.
  • Nearly two-thirds of students with cell phones use them during school, regardless of school policies against it.
  • Teens with cell phones send 440 text messages a week and 110 a week while in the classroom.

In conjunction with the poll, Common Sense Media is releasing a policy paper, “Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century,” which lays out its vision for educating, empowering, and protecting today’s kids so they can develop the skills, knowledge, and ethics for today’s digital world.

For full poll results, the policy paper, parent tips, and more, visit www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/cheating-goes-hi-tech.

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About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the impact of media and entertainment on kids and families. Common Sense Media provides trustworthy ratings and reviews of media and entertainment based on child development criteria created by leading national experts. For more information, visit www.commonsensemedia.org.

About Benenson Strategy Group
The Benenson Strategy Group is a nationally recognized strategic research and consulting firm with a reputation for being energetic, fast-paced, and analytically aggressive. Founded in 2001, The Benenson Strategy Group’s clients include major nonprofit organizations, President Barack Obama, governors, U.S. Senators, members of Congress, international labor unions, and Fortune 100 companies. For more information, visit www.bsgco.com.

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