Teens Lie, Like, a Lot, Survey Reveals

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Teens

Toy Pinocchio puppets lying teenagers

Is Pinocchio your teen's role model? Credit: Corbis

Teens lie. It's not such a shocking revelation. But you may be surprised to learn just how pervasive dishonesty is amongst teens.

Eight out of 10 high school students admit they've lied to a parent about something significant, even though 92 percent of them believe their parents want them to do the right thing, according to a recent survey of 40,000 high school students nationwide, conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

Yet, as upsetting as it may be to think your teen is lying to you, experts say it's important to distinguish between little white lies and major deceptions.

"Kids don't tell their parents everything, and I certainly remember lying to my parents once or twice," Michael Josephson, president of the Josephson Institute, tells USA Today. "The real question is whether kids know the line between 'I did my homework,' or 'I cleaned my room,' and a more serious situation."

The truth is that your kids are more likely to lie to you when they feel they're not meeting your expectations -- whether they be about bad grades, drinking or dangerous driving, says Jennifer Powell-Lunder, co-author of "Teenage as a Second Language."

"The biggest reason teens lie is that they don't want to disappoint their parents. They really care what you think," Powell-Lunder tells USA Today.

But the lying may just be the tip of the iceberg. The survey also found nearly one in three boys and one in four girls stole something from a store within the past year; while 21 percent admitted they stole from a parent or other relative and 18 percent copped to stealing something from a friend.

And all this dishonesty doesn't just end there for teens; it follows them into their academic lives, with 59 percent of students admitting they cheated on a test during the last year and 34 percent saying they've done it more than twice.

If you're wondering how instant access to scores of written work online is affecting kids' ability to think for themselves, one in three students surveyed said they used the Internet to plagiarize a homework assignment.

Powell-Lunder tells the USA Today kids may be less likely to lie when parents let them know what the consequences of their actions will be -- such as having the keys to the car taken away if they get a speeding ticket.

She also suggests some steps parents can take to help keep teenage lying in check:

• Model honesty. Don't lie in front of them, to them or on their behalf. So, no lying about his age so you can buy a cheaper ticket for the movies.
• Don't let them lie to others, even if it means they have to wait until they're actually 13 to get a Facebook account.
• Keep their confidences. Don't share her secrets with your friends or post her private moments on your Facebook page.
• Keep your cool. When your teen inevitably does something that upsets you, listen and discuss it calmly with her.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.