Net-addicted kids use web to cheat at school

students at computer

Nearly two-thirds of students have copied their homework from the internet "without having read it in whole or part", according to a new survey.

And, despite identifying such behaviour as plagiarism, nearly 29 per cent of those questioned said inserting content from the internet without changing it was acceptable behaviour.

The surprising results are from a study undertaken by Cranfield University's School of Management, which surveyed 267 school-aged children at a semi-rural, middle class school in the Midlands.

The author of the report, Dr Andrew Kakabadse, told IT PRO that the survey's findings were "concerning".

"I'm less concerned about the plagiarism," he said. "I'm more concerned about the fact that you have a fifth of our sample taking material which you've not read, putting it into an essay or some other form of document, which is passed [by teachers], which means you can do it again. What the hell is happening in classrooms?"

He described catching plagiarism in the classroom as "almost impossible".

The survey also found that 25.5 per cent of respondents spent up to six hours a day online. "That to me is concerning," said Dr Kakabadse, although he described the discovery "no surprise".

"We do feel that the isolation of that and taking attention away from work is not going to have a good effect," he said.

Despite the survey's findings, Dr Kakabadse said access to the internet in schools is not to blame, as there was "no difference" between copying from a book and copying from the internet.

"The internet is just the mechanism," he said. "What's important is the "the social training that goes on with any new technology usage."

"For me it still goes back to the teacher-pupil relationship. We still go back to size of the classroom, we still go back to investment in education, particularly in trying to develop good teachers [and] a nice environment to learn in and [the need to] create a culture that is thirsty for learning."

The report also found that access to technology begins at a young age. The majority of the survey's respondents said they had access to a computer before age eight and were accessing the internet by age ten.

Some 70 per cent of respondents owned or had access to a mobile phone by ten years of age, and nearly 60 per cent of 11-13 year olds claimed to be using social networking sites, with Bebo and MySpace the most popular. Another 44 per cent of respondents said they had more than a hundred friends on their social networking sites.

Nearly two thirds described themselves as "quite" or "very" addicted to the internet, and just over half said the same about their mobile phones.