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Bullying vs Banter


Bullying is defined as behaviour that is repeated or continued over a period of time, which intentionally hurts someone else, either emotionally or physically.


Banter is defined as the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.

Anyone can be bullied regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or age and over one million people are affected by bullying every year. Bullying can take many different forms including physical assault, social bullying, threatening behaviour, name calling and cyberbullying.

Banter holds an important place in British culture and can be important in the workplace and society in general in order to foster good relationships. There is, however, a very fine line between bullying and banter since comments that are viewed as humorous by one person can cause hurt and offence to another person.  It  can be particularly difficult to tell the difference between banter and bullying when communicating online because you can’t see the other person’s body language and facial expressions, or hear their tone of voice. You might think that you are just making a joke and that the other person is finding it funny when they may actually be upset about what you are saying.

A recent report by the Cybersmile Foundation found that over 25% of young people have felt upset or insulted by comments that were intended to be banter. This highlights just how important it is to consider how what you say could be perceived by others and the following questions can help you decide whether a comment is simply banter or whether it is actually bullying:

  • Is the joke aimed at only one person?
  • Does the joke embarrass, insult or shame someone else?
  • Is the joke about someone’s gender, sexuality, disability, race or other protected characteristic?
  • Does the recipient say or act like they don’t like it?

If you are worried that you have stepped over the line, it is always best to check in with the other person. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how your comments make them feel.

 If you feel as though banter has gone too far and you are being bullied there are several things you can do:

  • Try talking to the other person – they may be completely unaware how their comments are affecting you, particularly if it is happening online
  • Talk to a trusted person, for example a friend, family member or Designated Safeguarding Lead
  • Block anyone who is bullying you online
  • Don’t react – this plays into the bully’s hands

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