But technology isn't solely to blame for the epidemic. David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture (Harcourt), believes it's also the result of a winner-take-all society where you're supposed to do whatever it takes to succeed. "Society seems to say that it's okay to step on others, and parents haven't done a very good job when it comes to teaching values like honesty and integrity," he says.
Experts also agree that parents have contributed to the problem by constantly pressuring their children to excel. Nearly one-third of teens and 25% of tweens say that their parents push them too hard academically, according to a recent national survey commissioned by Family Circle. Liz Weber, an attorney whose daughter attended the prestigious Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, knows many parents who are satisfied only when their kids get straight A's. "I overheard a voice mail message from one mom who was merciless when her kid got B's in his advanced placement classes," she recalls. "She told him he was lazy, that his grades were unacceptable and that he would be grounded for the summer. Parents have practically forced their kids to cheat by making their world so competitive. Is it wrong? Absolutely. Can you blame the kids? No way." Even worse, that pressure is often compounded by fear. "The message from parents is that good grades matter more than ever if you want a good job and a good life," says Callahan. "At the same time, many parents worry about getting downsized or outsourced, and they're transferring that anxiety to their kids."
Teens are showing the strain. "When you have five honors classes, you don't want to get behind," says Deborah Plotsky, 16, of Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland. "Your parents are always reminding you about getting into a good college. Your classmates are always asking you about your grades. No one wants a C because it's embarrassing. So people cheat. But it's aggravating to people like me who work hard." Still, honest students are reluctant to speak up. "No one wants to be known as a tattletale," says Ian Krussman, 14, of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. "Anyone who turns in another kid will become an outcast."