The Difference Between Teasing & Bullying
Young children and teens (and even adults) often tease each other. It can be a fun means of communication, helping to cement social ties and relationships between people. However, teasing can be difficult to separate from bullying for young children and teens.
First, teasing and bullying are not the same thing. It’s very possible for teasing to turn negative and become bullying, but then it is not teasing anymore. With bullying being such a widespread problem nowadays, it’s important for parents to help their kids make a distinction between the two so that they can better navigate tricky social situations.
Teasing and bullying are types of social exchange. The intent behind them differs and sets them apart. Let’s take a look at their main differences.
Teach Teens That Teasing Is Friendly And Fun
Teasing is often a positive form of communication that shows closeness and affection. Children usually tease one another because it can be a fun way to provoke a reaction and its part of how they relate in a group. Done in the right spirit, it can play a part in showing appropriate behavior e.g., when one friend teases another about talking with their mouth full.
Additionally, by providing an outlet for expressing disapproval or frustration, teasing can be a harmless, playful and non-threatening way of resolving conflicts between friends.
Teasing is acceptable when:
- It doesn’t involve ganging up against one person, and everyone involved can reciprocate.
- It is playful banter exchanged between kids who have a close relationship with each other.
- It’s not intended to be harmful or hurtful in any way, and when asked to, the teaser stops.
- It doesn’t make fun of things beyond a person’s control e.g., their race or disabilities.
Help Teens See That Bullying Is Intended To Hurt
Bullying, on the other hand, is totally different. With bullying, the intent is often to hurt, belittle or embarrass the victim while making the bully look better. Bullying can be physical (punching, hitting, kicking etc.) or verbal. Verbal bullying involves name-calling and taunting. With the advent of technology, cyberbullying has come to the fore with bullies using texting, email or social media to harass their victims.
Most parents assume that bullying only happens at school, but it can also happen at home with siblings being the perpetrators.
Bullying behavior can often be differentiated from teasing due to these 3 characteristics:
- A pattern of behavior is established, and the bullying occurs repeatedly.
- There is an imbalance of power. Unlike teasing where the person being teased can reciprocate, a victim of bullying often feels threatened, attacked and unable to defend themselves.
- The behavior has a negative impact on the target, leaving them feeling hurt, distressed, depressed, anxious and even afraid.
Knowing the difference between teasing and bullying is important so that kids realize where to draw the line. While teasing enhances the friendship bond between kids, bullying has a negative effect on everyone involved from the bully to the victim and the bystanders. For this reason, kids should be encouraged to either speak up in support of the victim or to report bullying incidents to adults they