4 ways to talk to tweens about cheating, or academic dishonesty

4 ways to talk to tweens about cheating, or academic dishonesty
Everett Golson launches a pass during the 2012 football season.

The Notre Dame football team just keeps on giving me life lessons to review with my tween. I guess I should be grateful to Everett Golson, my alma mater's former quarterback, for reminding me to speak with my tween about the importance of academic honesty and clearly illustrating that cheaters never win. In fact, cheaters don't even get to play. They get kicked off the team and out of school.

The University of Notre Dame confirmed that Golson, the starting quarterback for the Irish during last year's undefeated regular season, is no longer enrolled at the school.

"Everett is not enrolled at the university. Federal law and our own polices preclude us from discussing specifics," spokesman Dennis Brown said in an email quoted by ESPN.

"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor academic judgment that I have been suspended from the University for the 2013 Fall Term," Golson said in a statement released on May 26, 2013.

I don't know if Golson cheated on a final or plagiarized a paper or some other form of "academic dishonesty," but it's all cheating of some sort and is not tolerated, nor should they be. My tween is not a big Notre Dame fan, and this will not do much to win her over, but I'm still going to take the opportunity to talk with her about cheating. I haven't given that topic a lot of air time in our home, but a preemptive conversation about it cannot hurt, particularly given a studying showing that one third of teens admitted to using their cell phones to cheat on a test.

I want my tween to know 3 things about cheating:

1. Cheating is wrong. I want my child to know that it is far, far better to be honest and fail a test than to cheat on one. If tweens don't know that's how you feel, they make think that they are doing what's necessary to keep you happy. Wanting to please parents is often a reason kids say they cheated. Be explicit in your expectations. Make sure your tween knows you expect him/her to be honest and that cheating is unacceptable.

2. Cheaters get caught. Tweens think they are invincible and they think they can get away with cheating, but they are wrong. Cite examples like Golson or Lance Armstrong. Have them read the article "Former Atlanta schools superintendent reports to jail in cheating scandal."

3. Cheaters never win, winners never cheat.  It's an old saying, but it's true. And cheaters never win in part because of #3 - they always get caught, and THEN there are always consequences. Parents need to be sure their tween knows that there will be consequences for cheating.  Ask your kids how they think Everett Golson feels today.

"If you cheat in sport or life you are ultimately sabotaging yourself and making yourself less of a viable competitor. Karma is a boomerang and the long-term shame and anxiety of cheating will ultimately negate the short-term gains of victory," wrote Christopher Berglund in an article on Lance Armstrong and how cheating always backfires in Psychology Today.

Here are 4 ways to help prevent cheating:

1. Let my tween know that I'm here to help.  Sometimes cheating seems like the only option to kids, but parents of course know that it is not. Let them know that if they are behind in a class or struggling with a topic, they can come to you for help, both in terms of the academic topic itself but also for other solutions, be it looking at their schedule to find more time to study or getting a tutor or some other solution. You can also help your tween figure out how to seek help from the teacher or a guidance counselor.

2. Explain what cheating is. In a 2009 study reported in U.S. News & World Report, nearly 1 in 4 students thinks that accessing notes on a cellphone, texting friends with answers, or using a phone to search the Internet for answers during a test isn't cheating. Also talk about what plagiarism is, including cutting and pasting, and why that is wrong.

3. Role play with your tween to help practice saying "no" when someone wants to borrow homework or what they should do if someone wants to look off their test paper. It may not hurt to review the school handbook and policies on cheating.

4. Talk about views of success. Tweens now are so very aware of test scores and percentiles and honors classes and academic awards. In sports it's all about who is the champion. But I want my tween to know that I'll be far, far prouder of her being "average" and honest. And that "average" is relative and that she has so many amazing qualities that shine, and school performance is very important, but certainly not worth cheating. Talk about the satisfaction that comes from knowing you did your best, not from cheating. First and foremost, I want my tween to be a good person, and that means being honest.

This post was updated on May 26, 2013, to include Golson's statement.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THIS POST: Lessons kids and parents can learn from the Manti Teo hoax  or The Athlete's Sports Experience: Making A Difference from the ChicagoNow blog The Athlete's Sports Experience: Making A Difference

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