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Research: Spread of smart phones leads to rampant cheating

A series of studies and surveys shows that technology is making cheating easier

Only 3 percent of parents said their children use phones to cheat, while 35 percent of students admitted doing so.

Higher education soon will absorb a generation of high school students who frequently use smart phones to store cheat sheets, share test answers with classmates, and scroll through Google search results during exams, according to researchers who examined student cheating habits.

Studies published by academics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and by education technology website Common Sense Media showed that constant sharing between friends – pictures, videos, and text messages – didn’t stop during class.

And even after using web-accessible smart phones to share tips and answers with friends during tests and quizzes, one in four students said they didn’t consider it cheating.

The research findings were compiled and published in an infographic by, a California-based marketing company.

Twenty-six percent of high school students saved information from their notes and textbooks in their phone and accessed those digital files during exams, and more than half of student respondents said their classmates did the same.

Seventeen percent of students said they had used their smart phones to take pictures of test questions and answers and sent those images to classmates. One in five students said they had used their phones to search the internet for test answers.

Overall, 35 percent of students said they had used their phones to cheat during school.

“Cheating has always occurred, it’s just so much easier now. It was always harder to go get the encyclopedia from the library, and now it’s so much easier with 3G and 4G phones,” said Aaron Tooley, director of online media for  “Some of these students are going to be in for a very rude awakening, because cheating is taken so seriously in higher education.”

Convincing incoming freshmen that using their iPhones, Androids, and Blackberrys during exams violates basic academic integrity policies will be a new challenge for higher-education officials and professors, said Seth Restaino, who also works with’s online media.

“The definition of cheating to the teenage generation has been so blurred, no one is quite sure what it means,” Restaino said. “There’s no messing around in colleges when it comes to cheating. … Will that be enough of a disincentive to cheat? We don’t really know that yet.”

The widespread use of smart phones to break basic school rules hasn’t led parents to point an accusatory finger at their daughters and sons, according to research.

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One Response to Research: Spread of smart phones leads to rampant cheating

  1. rkuper

    April 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I find it very interesting that many students didn’t consider their use of smartphones a means of cheating, whereas institutions clearly do. In my mind, this begs the question as to what is the role of the institution.

    On the one hand, there is the traditional model of memorization, and knowledge for knowledge sake. But on the other, if universities are supposed to prepare students for the work environment, where smartphones are very much present, then is there harm in using them in class?

    College campuses are very different than they once were, and they are continuing to change and evolve at an unprecedented pace. Thank you for shedding some light on one of the many issues that is shaping this change.

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