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Ethics: Another Y2K Problem

• volume 4 • number 1

In a recent survey of teen ethics, USA Today reported that a significantly greater number of teens admit to cheating and lying now than in the past. These are the same teenagers who will soon be entering the job market, which seems to suggest that dishonest candidates could be an increasing problem well into the next millennium.

The fact is, young people who have grown up taking on different identities in chat rooms and email correspondence find it not only easy, but almost second nature, to adopt a variety of personas. The president of Coca Cola/USA, for instance, recently discovered that his 13-year-old son had passed himself off as a 27-year-old adult and was earning $25 an hour monitoring various chat rooms on the Internet. It seems the young man got his job through an online interview.

Taking on strange names and identities is often part of the fun of Web communication. It's a technological Mardi Gras out there, and all it takes to participate is a little imagination. Still, the statistics are alarming. According to a survey by the Georgia Institute of Technology, more than 40% of Web users reported falsifying online information at one time or another, and 10% said they lied at least half the time.

This kind of deception may be fairly harmless online. The problem, however, is that it establishes a pattern that can easily spill over into real life. A candidate's cynicism or sense of entitlement can make the job interview seem like just another "game to win."