teenagers see lying as a necessary part of life

in disturbing research by junior achievement and deloitte reported recently on ypulse, reveals that while most teens feel ethically prepared for adulthood, they also see lying, cheating, plagerizing and commit acts of violance as an acceptable means of achieving their goals.

The majority of teens surveyed (71 percent) say they feel fully prepared to make ethical decisions when they enter the workforce. Yet 38 percent of that group believe it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or even behave violently in order to succeed. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of all teens surveyed think cheating on a test is acceptable on some level, and more than half of those teens (54 percent) say their personal desire to succeed is the rationale.

In a particularly alarming finding given recent cases of school violence, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of all teens surveyed think violence toward another person is acceptable on some level. Of those who think so, the justifications for violence include settling an argument (27 percent) and revenge (20 percent).

Pressure to succeed in school seems to be driving many teens’ opinions that unethical behavior is an acceptable means to an end. Of the teens who think plagiarism is acceptable on some level, 37 percent think a personal desire to succeed is justification — that number climbs to 51 percent among the students who feel overwhelming pressure to succeed.

apparently the research doesn’t provide reasons for these stats. i hate to blame everything on media, but i do wonder (as does anastasia, in her post) whether this is related to teenagers viewing a lifetime of “acceptable” violence on tv, movies and video games, as well as cheating and lying (particularly on reality tv, as the way to “win”). i also what role our ongoing war in iraq plays on teenage perceptions that violence is sometimes acceptable. certainly, from what i’ve read in studies and heard from kids, cheating in school is the absolute norm; but i’m not sure if that’s a chicken or an egg when it comes to these survey results.

boundaries between personal and public life are also addressed in the research, in ways that show both a naiveté and a double-standard:

The survey also found that teens have difficulty in understanding that unethical behavior transcends the boundaries between private life, school or work life, and online behavior. More than a quarter (27 percent) of all teens surveyed said it is not fair for an employer to suspend or fire employees for unethical behavior outside of their jobs and another quarter (26 percent) said they weren’t sure if it was fair or not.

Additionally, more than half (57 percent) of all teens surveyed believe it is not fair for employers to make hiring or firing decisions based on material they have posted to the internet and another 19 percent weren’t sure if it was fair or not. Illustrating teens’ perception of different ethical standards for online versus “real world” behavior, nearly half (47 percent) of teens said it was acceptable on some level to illegally download music without paying for it, but only 5 percent said it was acceptable to steal something from a store.

10 thoughts on “teenagers see lying as a necessary part of life”

  1. i saw that as well – and I wonder if the culprit is not really parents like me

    my kids see me cut edges – personally, professionally, civically, even in church – say one thing and act or talk differently, hedge on truth — even use truth to subvert words & ideas into lies.

    the media just tells stories that we want to hear – i fear that my desire to blame them is just a cop-out from the reality that kids learn most of life from their parents

  2. The article makes me wonder as to what level of violence are these kids considering acceptable. Some people view defending themselves as violence. It seems as though the article mentions just enough to let people draw the worst conclusions. Not to mention that so much of work in the workforce is group related, yet in school everything is isolated. Where do students actually learn to work with others?

  3. it doesn’t suprise me as I imagine a survey of adults would come up with the same numbers, if the adults wheren’t lying with that.

    You see cut throat actions, lies and cheating justified by calling it business or “the real world”, and you see all sorts of violence justified by calling it war or protection.

    The only way a survey like this would suprise me is if the adult world where different, then I’d be alarmed, but given it seems to be the same ratio as adults I encounter, I’m not all that suprised or scared.

  4. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I have kids in my youth group who have told me in the past that they’ve “stretched the truth” in order to tell people, including me, what they wanted to hear. And to them, it was perfectly ok because everyone in the situation was happy, even if the “truth” wasn’t the truth.

  5. Chris,
    Re: violence, the article states this:
    “Of those who think so, the justifications for violence include settling an argument (27 percent) and revenge (20 percent).”

    I interpret “violence” to mean fighting. When and where I grew up, fighting was a game and considered fun.

    I agree. When I was a kid, rules like lying were admonished by my parents, yet, they were constantly teaching us how to lie. We’d go to Disneyland or Sea World and we kids would, literally, be commanded to lie about our age so we could get the children’s admission price. We’d get in trouble if we argued (What child wants to act like they are a younger age?). “Little” lies like this taught me not to trust my parents and consider them as hypocrites. It was hard to follow rules set by someone I considered a hypocrite.

    I also have no doubt that media, tv, movies and games are culprits as well.

    Given that teens are influenced so heavily by lying/cheating parents and the immorality of tv, movies, games, music and media, it’s no wonder why we, as youth workers, have such a huge hill to climb.

    Speaking of youth workers, I’ve also witnessed YM’s take part in “little” white lies and teaching the kids they’re ministering to that it’s ok to cheat or lie in certain areas, “Let’s not tell the Senior Pastor…” or “Let’s play a game and lie to this employee.” It can get confusing to know when it’s ok to lie or be deceitful and when it’s not. We should just be teaching that it’s never ok.

  6. We’re all guilty of little white lies, and probably a few bigger lies in our lives. I think the issue here is whether of not we want to change. Our kids know we lie too…whether it’s fibbing a bit, lying, or even, as my wife says, not telling the whole truth. The bit where kids get confused, I think, is not in recognizing lies, but in a desire to change their ways. It’s as though we all look at this issue, realize it’s a reality in our lives, and therefore, want younger people to be different…to avoid our pitfalls, yet we are seldom willing to climb out of the pit ourselves…

  7. As a teen one of my most powerful memories of my father was when we had some house damage. my father had a contractor in to look at what needed to be done and give a quote for the insurance. the contractor looked at the damage and quoted my father two prices, the real one for the job and an inflated price for the insurance company. He really thought he was doing my father a favour. I will never forget my fathers response. he proptly and politely showed the contractor to the door and refused to have any part of such dishonesty or to hire someone who would suggest it. to me as a young man it was a striking example of morality and integrity which has stayed with me throughout my life.

    Incidentally, my father, a deeply moral and honest man, is a stubbornly fervent atheist.

  8. the term white lie is instructive

    A lie about something trivial, or a lie for which there will be few consequences if you’re caught.

    a lie with good intentions

    When so many people speak of ABSOLUTE TRUTH, relative lies become some interesting to follow. In our culture, we tend to scapegoat people for BIG sins (violence, sexuality, money) and turn our eyes away from the daily sins that we all do.

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