Forget about hard work. Many of today's teenagers believe they have to lie and cheat to succeed, according to a new ethics survey.
In today's world, you have to break some rules if you want to stay ahead, according to nearly 40 percent of teenagers who took the 2007 online survey for Junior Achievement and Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, an accounting firm. That means plagiarizing and cheating to make good grades, lying when necessary and stealing when you're short on cash, the teens said.
"It suggests an attitude of ethical relativism and rationalization of whatever actions serve one's immediate needs and purposes," David Miller, a business ethics professor and executive director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, said in a statement. "This way of thinking will inevitably lead to unethical if not illegal actions that will damage individual lives and ruin corporate reputations."
The majority of the 725 teens who were polled -- 71 percent -- said they're ethically ready for work. But asked to compare their ethics with those of today's professional adults, teens ranked their peer group poorly.
The survey results could be the result of living in the 21st century, Bell said, where illegal downloading doesn't seem as sinful as shoplifting. The study found that the teens polled in September didn't acknowledge that unethical behavior applies to all areas of life, including online, officials said.
More than half the teens polled said it's not fair for someone to get hired or fired based on what's posted on MySpace or elsewhere on the Internet.
Teens also didn't concede the similarities between stealing online and stealing from a store, according to the survey. Almost half of them -- 47 percent -- said it's OK to download music without paying for it, but only 5 percent said it's OK to shoplift.
"A lot of young people don't have a lot of life experience, and they feel like they can do things with impunity," Bell said. "They seem to feel like they can behave one way in their online life than the matrices of the real world."
This is the fifth annual survey that the groups have done to measure teen ethics. The 2007 national survey had a sampling error of 4 percentage points.
Sometimes, the teens said, there are good reasons for doing bad things. Of the teens who supported violence against another person, 77 percent said it's justified when it's a matter of self-defense.
Twenty-four percent of teens said it's OK to cheat on tests, especially if a personal desire to succeed is the goal. Fifteen percent said plagiarism was acceptable, with nearly half of those teens justifying it when there's not enough time to complete an assignment.
Bell wondered whether the responses reflect a shift in attitudes toward achieving success.
"We live in such an age of instant gratification," Bell said, "that we're not willing to put in the time and effort of hard work."
Powered by ScribeFire.