The Sitter Cafe Blog

A Conversation About Child Care
and the common challenges faced by parents

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hi-Tech Cheating:
What Every Parent Needs To Know

Think digital cheating is something only other parents’ kids do?
Think again.

Common Sense Media’s groundbreaking new study, conducted in partnership with the Benenson Strategy group, reveals that cheating via cell phones and the Internet is more widespread than parents might assume. More importantly, many students don’t consider what they’re doing to be cheating.

See the full survery & result in PDF format

National Poll Reveals Students’ Attitudes Toward Hi-Tech Cheating and Highlights Need for Parents and Educators to Set Guidelines and Address Consequences FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 18, 2009 - Common Sense Media

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Common Sense Media today released the results of a national poll on the use of digital media for cheating in school. The poll, conducted by The Benenson Strategy Group, revealed that more than 35% of teens admit to cheating with cell phones, and more than half admit to using the Internet to cheat. More importantly, many students don’t consider their actions to be cheating at all. The results highlight a real need for parents, educators, and leaders to start a national discussion on digital ethics.

“The results of this poll should be a wake-up call for educators and parents,” said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. “Cell phones and the Internet have been a real game-changer for education and have opened up many avenues for collaboration, creation, and communication. But as this poll shows, the unintended consequence of these versatile technologies is that they’ve made cheating easier. The call to action is clear: Parents and educators have to be aware of how kids are using technology to cheat and then help our kids understand that the consequences for online cheating are just as serious as offline cheating.”

Kids have always found ways to cheat, but the tools they have today are more powerful than ever. In this poll, kids reveal that they're texting each other answers during tests, using notes and information stored on their cell phones during tests, and downloading papers from the Internet to turn in as their own work. Because the digital world is distant, hard to track, and mostly anonymous, kids are less likely to see the consequences of their online actions, especially when they feel they won’t get caught.

Common Sense Media is asking parents and educators to step in to help kids develop a set of guidelines to follow in the digital world and to understand that the rules of right and wrong in their offline lives also apply in their online lives. For parents, it’s important to understand and embrace the media their kids are using and have a frank discussion about cheating and its implications. Educators need to be hyper aware of the amount of hi-tech cheating happening in their schools, talk to students about it, and establish rules and consequences for the classroom that reflect the reality of our kids’ 24/7 media world.

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • 41% of teens say that storing notes on a cell phone to access during a test is a serious cheating offense, while 23% don’t think it’s cheating at all.
  • 45% of teens say that texting friends about answers during tests is a serious cheating offense, while 20% say it’s not cheating at all.
  • 76% of parents say that cell phone cheating happens at their teens’ schools, but only 3% believe their own teen has ever used a cell phone to cheat.
  • Nearly two-thirds of students with cell phones use them during school, regardless of school policies against it.
  • Teens with cell phones send 440 text messages a week and 110 a week while in the classroom.

In conjunction with the poll, Common Sense Media is releasing a policy paper, “Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century,” which lays out its vision for educating, empowering, and protecting today’s kids so they can develop the skills, knowledge, and ethics for today’s digital world.

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the impact of media and entertainment on kids and families. Common Sense Media provides trustworthy ratings and reviews of media and entertainment based on child development criteria created by leading national experts. For more information, visit

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Heidi Fleiss of Houston" Uses Craig's List
To Lure Families Seeking Nannies

compiled by Michael A. Gerard

After being arrested and charged as the head of a prostitution ring, the "HEIDI FLEISS of HOUSTON" - free on bail, is now Using Craig's List to solicit nannies and parents for her new career: Child Care Nanny Agency Recruiter.

Two weeks ago a woman and her husband were arrested for running the largest prostitution ring ever known in Houston. The police searched their home and found $40,000 in cash, several silver and gold bars and confiscated their two expensive vehicles. They have two little girls ages 1 and 3.

The day following the arrest a nanny applied at a local nanny agency and said her employer was having financial problems and that she was let go just the day before - she provided a reference name - and it was the same name that was being reported in the news in connection with the prostitution ring.


You see, about a week earlier the agency had run an ad on Craig's List to hire administrative help for the office. A woman responded with a very impressive resume - Masters Degree in Psychology, educated in England, 10 years of recruiting, etc. The agency didn't immediately put two and two together and scheduled an interview to meet her at their offices. The next morning her name rang a bell and they checked the internet and found several news stories that confirmed: this was the person that the Houston media was referring to as the Houston "Heidi Fleiss". They cancelled the interview.

Yesterday, one of the agency's employees was checking Craig's List for people that were advertising themselves as nannies and found an ad for a "Nanny Recruiter" who they'd never heard of before. Like all established, reputable agencies, they tend to know the legitimate competition in the area. They couldn't figure out who it could be - and they've been in business in Houston for decades. They were very curious because many of the words in the AD were obviously taken from this agencies website. They did a reverse phone look-up and found that it was this same woman who had tried to apply at their office.

The "Houston Madam" is now recruiting child care providers on Craig's List. That same day the major TV channels and one newspaper ran the story.

See a video of the story as reported on April 9.

The Turbivilles, who use Craig's List as their marketing tool for prostitutes and nannies, do so because it's free or cheap and without regulation or monitoring. They don't really care what service they broker - they just want to do it on the cheap, with no interference from outside influences like trade organizations, law enforcement or government. Their attitude appears to that because they are 'hard-working, family oriented people' that they are above the law. It's a pervasive attitude among many in our society that says as long as you don't get caught, there's nothing wrong with purposely doing what is illegal.


Smart parents and care providers have always known that using free bulletin board web sites like is dangerous and extremely risky. As if the murder of Katherine Ann Olson (who responded to a Craig's List Ad for a Nanny) wasn't enough of a wake up call, we can now confirm that parents are putting their children at serious risk when they turn to unregistered, unaffiliated "nanny agencies".

Rules To Live By:

  • Never use a website that does not provide some type of ID Verification of the Parents or Agency
  • Never use a website site that does not allow you to keep all of your personal information (including your email address) private
  • Always check and verify references before agreeing to meet anyone in person who you found "on the internet"
  • Always conduct a background check and investigation before hiring someone to watch your children
  • Verify the legitimacy of a nanny agency by visiting the International Nanny Association (INA) website.