Teens show lapses in ethics

American teenagers generally see themselves as ethically prepared for the workplace, yet they also believe there are times when cheating, stealing and violence are appropriate, a new study says.

Seven in 10 teens contacted for the annual Teen Ethics Survey, conducted by Junior Achievement and Deloitte & Touche USA, are confident they can make ethical decisions.

However, almost four in 10 of those teenagers say their personal success sometimes necessitates unethical behaviors like plagiarism, violence and stealing.

Of the one in four students who sanction cheating, more than half say a personal desire to succeed is a justifiable rationale, and that number is higher for teens that feel overwhelming pressure to succeed.

Of the one in three teenagers who believe violence is acceptable, more than a quarter cite settling an argument as justification, while one in five cite revenge.

“It’s sobering when teens who say they are fully prepared to make ethical decisions on the job also say they need to cheat to fulfill their personal ambition, to plagiarize because they don’t have enough time, or to physically harm another because they’ve had an argument,” says Ainar D. Aijala, Jr., a global managing partner with Deloitte and chair of Junior Achievement.

There also appears to be a disconnect in teens’ minds between the virtual world and the real world, the study says.

More than half the teenagers surveyed believe it is unfair for employers to make hiring decisions based on what teens post online, the study says, while an additional one in five say they aren’t sure whether that’s fair.

And while virtually all teens say stealing something from a store is unacceptable, fewer than half say illegally downloading music without paying is wrong.

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