Back-to-School: Could Your Remote Learner Be Cyber Cheating?

By on Aug 17, 2020

Back-to-School: Could Your Remote Learner Be Cyber Cheating?

As families across the country ramp up for the new school year, most are considering one of three basic learning options. Kids can attend traditional, in-class learning, they can attend their classes online from home, or they can choose a hybrid of the two. There are also learning pods, or small community groups, springing up as we recently discussed.

Whatever learning scenario your family chooses, each will likely have its own unique challenges. One challenge that seems to be heating up online chats lately is cyber cheating. And it’s not just teachers, administrators, and parents concerned about the potential fallout, kids aren’t thrilled either.

Macy, who is going into her sophomore year of high school will be returning to the classroom. “I’m going to be in class every day taking notes and then studying at night. On exam day, I’ll take the exam and if it’s a tough subject like Statistics, I will be lucky to get a C. My friend Lindley, whose parents let her learn do school online can take the same exam, figure out a way to cheat, and probably get an A. How is that fair?”

The topic is inspiring a number of potential solutions.

Some schools have included cyber cheating as part of their Back-to-School Guidelines for teachers. Others are leaving testing and monitoring up to individual teachers while some districts with bigger budgets are hiring digital proctors or relying on robots, video feeds, and webcams to curb cyber cheating.

At the college level, the effort to reduce cyber cheating is getting sophisticated. T staff at Georgia Tech recently programmed an online bot named Jack to infiltrate popular online cheating sites and pose as a student willing to write papers and do homework for a fee. It’s working.

While exactly how to even out testing requirements for all students — in-class or at home — is a work in progress, there are some practical ways to set your kids up for success this school year wherever they choose to learn.

Ways to Curb Cyber Cheating

Discuss expectations. Does your child understand exactly what cheating is? Sometimes the lines between the real world and the digital world can blur and create grey areas that are tough for kids to navigate. Depending on the age of your child, be sure to define cheating and establish the expectation of integrity and honesty whether in a classroom or at home. Discuss the goal of comprehension and understanding versus googling answers.

Don’t do your child’s work. Parents want to help struggling kids but can often go overboard. When we do our child’s work, it’s easy to forget — we’re actually cheating!

Review the hot topics. Discuss the big topics around cheating such as plagiarism, googling answers, cheat sites, downloading past tests, crib sheets, sharing school work between friends, doing work for others, copyright violations, giving proper attribution.

Keep in touch with teachers. With school guidelines constantly changing, it’s important to keep in close contact with teachers. Ask about test monitoring and expectations for remote students.

Be present. It’s natural to hover over younger kids but we can get lax with our teens. Be present and monitor their workload. Let your remote high schooler know that his or her learning is a priority.

Monitor workload. As academic pressure mounts, so too can the temptation to cut corners or cheat. Talk through the rough spots, get your child a tutor if needed, and step in to help prepare for tests (just don’t do the work).

Rely on software for help. If you suspect our child may be cheating, or that it may be a temptation, use parental monitoring software. Monitoring software can show you a log of sites accessed on any given day and allow you to block other sites.

Equip Yourself. Follow the advice of a Pennsylvania superintendent who says his teachers will be reading Generation Z Unfiltered, a book by Tim Elmore, to help them easily identify signs of cheating.

No matter where your child settles in to learn this year, it will take a family-sized effort to navigate these new academic halls. Stick together, keep talking, give extra grace for mistakes along the way, and work together to make this the best school year ever. You’ve got this, parents!

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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