Scrabble Tournament Cheating | Why Children Cheat | Tips for Parents

When the NY Times ran the story about the 13-year-old Scrabble player cheated in the National Scrabble Championship, the nation immediately asked the question, “What would cause a child to cheat?” There suggestions that parents must have added an extreme amount of pressure. Others surmised that it could have been a learned behavior. While some were shocked that a child would go to such extremes to win.

Fox 35 News interviews Total Life Counseling Center’s Adolescent Expert Jada Collins
A Slate reporter says, “The news ricocheted through the ballroom at the Orlando resort where 342 people—men, women, and a handful of children—were gathered for Scrabble’s annual five-day, 31-game championship marathon. Many players were familiar with the boy, who had competed in school and rated Scrabble tournaments for a couple of years. But they didn’t know of him as “one of the top young Scrabble players” in America, as he was described in news reports. Rather, he’d gained renown because of a performance at a previous tournament that seemed too good to be true.”

So, the question is simple, “Why do children cheat?” Whether it is on a biology test or a Scrabble Tournament, experts believe conscious cheating begins around the age of 8 or 9. Children younger than 8 may not understand clearly that “cheating” is cheating. For example, if a younger child copies answers from another student’s paper, he/she may not understand that this behavior is considered dishonest.

Here are facts and tips about adolescent cheating:

6 Facts about Cheating:

1)  Cheating is more common among adolescents than many people believe. Studies estimate that as many as 85% of students engage in some type of academic dishonesty before graduating from high school.

2)  Cheating rates have risen, and continue to be high.

3)  Most cheaters believe that they won’t get caught, and most don’t get caught.

4)  Technology has increased the ways in which students can engage in cheating behaviors.

5)  Cheating is associated with certain characteristics: impulsivity, low levels of academic confidence, and attending a school where the belief is that “everyone cheats.”

6)  Cheating is generally unrelated to moral development.

4 Ways to Reduce Cheating:

1)  One of the strongest predictors of cheating is a focus (by teachers and parents) on grades and test scores.

2)  Students are less likely to cheat in classrooms where teachers emphasize learning for the sake of learning; in other words, when “mastery” of the academic material is what is stressed (more so than grades), students are less likely to cheat.

3)  Teachers can decrease the amount of cheating that occurs by not stressing students out about grades; of course grades and test scores matter and are important, but that shouldn’t be the focus of discussion. Students shouldn’t be told they have to learn something “because there is a test on Friday;” rather, students should be told the need to learn something because of the inherent value of the topic.

4)  When parents see that schools are focusing too much on grades and test scores and causing stress and anxiety in their children, parents should discuss these concerns with teachers and school administrators.

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AUTHOR: Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC – Communicator, Coach & Licensed Mental Health Counselor working with couples, teens, young adults and women empowerment issues in Orlando and East Orlando Florida! Jada Jackson can be reached at (407) 248-0030.