PEP Blog


Academic Integrity and Distance Learning, Part 1

By Dana Spencer

Distance learning has created many situations we could scarcely imagine in a time before the pandemic. These problems range from uneven access to technology and the internet, to kids missing friends, routines and mile marker events. Parents are left struggling to balance work and family without relief. 

One thing parents didn’t necessarily expect from distance learning is the surge in peer normalization of academic dishonesty and the temptation of teens to participate. We heard enough parental rumblings around this topic that we decided to take a closer look.

According to the International Center for Academic Integrity, surveys of over 70,000 high school students at over 24 high schools from 2002 – 2015 demonstrated that:

  • 64% of students admitted to cheating on a test
  • 58 % admitted to plagiarism
  • 95 % said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.

The Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit newsroom reporting on education, says “93% of teachers think students are more likely to cheat online than in person.”  

While no one wants to believe that their child would consider cheating, now is the perfect opportunity for parents to talk with teens about academic integrity as a preventative measure. 

 Here are some thoughts on why kids may be rationalizing cheating:

  • Whether checking answers online or collaborating with friends, “everyone else is doing it.”
  • With apps like Google Translate, Wolfram|Alpha, and Photomath, technology makes it easy while apps like SnapChat make it invisible.
  • The pressure on today’s high schoolers to perform hasn’t disappeared.
  • From their bedrooms, teens may simply lack motivation; cutting corners makes it easier to maintain similar grades with less effort. 
  • The teen brain is a work in progress; teens are wired with less impulse control and more risk-taking behavior than adults. The prefrontal cortex, where rational decision-making thought occurs, doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20’s. 

*** NOTE: In conjunction with other symptoms, striking changes in academic performance or motivation may be indicators of depression.  If you suspect your child is depressed, please seek the assistance of a professional therapist. 

What can we as parents do? 

Be proactive, not reactive

Engage your teen or tween in open, curious conversations about what’s going on in their distance-learning classrooms. To encourage discussion, talk about this concept at the global level rather than at a personal one, so as not to make it feel like an accusation.  A conversation starter will look something like this: “I read this article about teens and cheating during distance learning. I’m really curious, what’s it like at your school?” 

Listen to understand

Once your teen starts talking, keep them talking using reflective listening and asking open ended questions. Less talking, more listening. 

Raise thinking kids

Talk with your child about what happens when someone at their school is accused of academic dishonesty. What consequences come along with this violation? What might that mean for the accused student? How might that feel? In doing this, we’re intellectually getting them out of their bedrooms and back into their classroom environments/expectations while we help them think through their, or their peers’, actions. 

Be clear in your values

After listening and understanding, take a moment to make clear your personal values and expectations such as, “I’d rather you enjoy the merits of a well-earned B than a dishonest A.”  

Focus on the positive

Don’t take it personally if your child initially denies having done anything wrong and later admits to some things. Denial is protection; lying means he or she is scared of the consequences of owning up. If this happens, focus on the positive: that your child had the moral character to admit error in judgment. Thank your child for their honesty and keep that teen thinking brain activated as you help him or her navigate how to make things right.   


Looking for more guidance or practice on connecting with your teen? PEP offers 4-week online master classes each month on Encouragement! Building Your Child’s Confidence from the Inside Out and Redefining Discipline: A No Gimmicks Guide to Raising Responsible, Respectful Children

Visit our library of on-demand programs for parents of teens

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Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

Apart from the free survey software, we also have access to QuestionPro's free survey templates . We've found many of them useful and powerful to collect insights from various stakeholders of our organization.