Unfortunately the internet has made things much more open and available to children than ever before. This includes things such as essays and take-home tests. For the sum of a weekly allowance, your child might be having a college student prepare his essays on his behalf or even filling out the essay portions of scholarship and university applications. Increasingly children aren’t seeing this as cheating, however – they see it as taking advantage of something easily sold online. If an essay is available, often advertised as a study guide or example, why wouldn’t they take advantage of it?
The internet has made plagiarism a very hot topic in many schools. Most unfortunate of all is that the plagiarism of papers isn’t limited to secondary and college campuses. Indeed, even grade school children are finding assignments online with or without the help of older siblings. A generation ago, you could hire the geek to write you a paper or maybe beg your significant other to put something together on your behalf. Today, you can hire a paper on any topic from a writer located anywhere in the world.
Some children go on to tune up the paper, adding personal elements in an effort to hide the shine of purchase, but many others turn it in as in. Others don’t bother to even commission a new paper, they find one online through any number of media sharing websites and slap their own name on it. Still others try to “research” the topic by pulling up many different websites or papers online and cutting and pasting portions of the information into their own paper without citing references or using such subtleties as quotation marks.
Anyway you slice it, unless you are giving credit to the true author of the paper or citing and referencing every single element of the paper that came from alternative sources, the paper is plagiarized and inadmissible in the classroom or university.
The Consequences of Plagiarism
In the mind of a child, their efforts online are secret and will never be detected. In a very small percentage of cases, this might be correct. But for the vast majority of those who try to cheat on essays and term papers, there is a very certain outcome. Just as students today have a huge network of sources to find free papers and purchased copies of others, there are highly sensitive detection devices teachers can use to find out the sources of a paper.
For example, if Johnny turns in a paper and the teacher is curious as to the research and possible plagiarism in the essay, she can turn to the internet. Simply copy and paste the document or type in a few lines throughout into a special program and hit submit. The program will scan the internet to find duplicate phrases and similar material along with sources. If your child’s paper turns out to have phrases located online – that aren’t the obvious phrases that many people use, such as clichés, your child will be in serious trouble.
Schools have recently reexamined their policies regarding plagiarism to account for the increases across the UK and the world. What used to be a slamming door has become something closer to a revolving one. A few years ago a child was banned from activities, given a failing grade, suspended from classes and other harsh penalties if found to be cheating – even if it was a first offense. Today, some schools still have the harsh penalties, but many more have an intermediate step of giving the child another chance. It’s as if schools have realized how tempting the internet can be for cheating and are allowing students an opportunity to redeem themselves, although most will still receive no credit for the assignment and many other forms of discipline.
If your child is caught cheating in this manner, he should simply be thankful for an opportunity to stay in his school. The same courtesy is not offered at the University. A single incident of plagiarism can have your child removed from the school completely.
Preventing cheating on the part of your child is a two-pronged attack. The first starts very early with a high set of ethics being instilled over time. If your allow your child to cheat at anything, including board games or to take advantage of others, you might be laying the wrong foundation. As your child grows, never allow a lie to stand and make it clear that his work is his own. Make him responsible for his homework and learning, but help him as much as possible. Helping, of course, means guiding to the answer, but never just telling him what it is.
Once your child is used to doing his own work and values the rewards of his labor, he’ll be much less likely to steal material or use a purchased essay simply because of his value system. But every child can be coerced and many don’t understand the fine lines between research and documentation and fall into the shades of grey. And there are many shades of grey. Is rewording and working from a essay to create your own version the same as turning in the original with your name on it? And what about simply rewording the material pulled from research? Does changing the sentence about make it his own work?
The best way to help your child navigate these cloudy waters is to sit with him while he works on an essay one evening and help him understand how the essay should be done. Show him how to research the material properly and with the help of his teacher, document sources to give credit where it is due. Talk to him frankly about the consequences of turning in work that is not his own and while pointing out the consequences he’ll receive from school, you should throw in your own. The biggest consequence in a situation such as cheating is that your child will always be labeled a cheater and will have an extremely hard time ever regaining trust with his friends, teachers or family.