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Banter v Bullying

Banter and bullying are two words often used interchangeably, but they have stark differences in their meaning and impact.

Banter can be described as light-hearted, friendly teasing or joking among friends or colleagues. It is characterised by mutual respect, consent, and the absence of malicious intent. Banter creates a positive and playful atmosphere, fostering camaraderie and strengthening relationships. It allows individuals to express themselves freely while maintaining a sense of humour.

On the other hand, bullying involves repeated, intentional, and harmful behaviour towards an individual or a group. It is a deliberate act of aggression, intended to belittle, intimidate, or hurt another. Bullying can cause emotional and psychological distress, leading to long-lasting negative effects on a person’s self-esteem and overall well-being.


The Difference

It is important to recognise the difference between banter and bullying. While banter can be a healthy and enjoyable way to interact, it should always be based on consent and respect for everyone involved. It is crucial to be mindful of the impact our words may have on others, and to ensure that banter never crosses the line into bullying behaviour.

Promoting a culture that fosters open communication, empathy, and kindness is essential in preventing bullying behaviour and creating a safe environment for all. Encouraging individuals to speak up when they feel uncomfortable and educating people about the difference between banter and bullying, can help create a positive and inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels valued and respected.

Remember, a humorous exchange should never come at the expense of someone’s well-being. We should all aim to promote banter that uplifts and connects us, rather than bullying behaviour that harms and divides.

When Banter becomes Bullying

We know that the term ‘banter’ can sometimes be misused to disguise bullying behaviours and when banter crosses the line and becomes bullying, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to this shift. Understanding the intent of the communication is crucial in determining whether banter has crossed the line. Unless misinterpreted, banter that was not intended to cause harm or upset is unlikely to cross the line. When a person intentionally hurts or causes harm to another, that is bullying behaviour. On the other hand, banter, which is typically characterised by friendly teasing, joking, and light-hearted humour, is usually consensual, based on mutual respect and fosters positive relationships within a group. However, it becomes bullying once the person being targeted feels offended, irrespective of the perpetrator’s intent.

The Online World

When face-to-face, we can use physical and verbal signs to help judge the intent of banter. In the online world, intent may be harder to determine as the lack of social and non-verbal signs means it is sometimes difficult to convey messages.

For example, without tone of voice to help show whether a comment was a joke, a vague comment could be interpreted as intentionally hurtful. Therefore, online exchanges of ‘banter’ could be interpreted as online bullying.

Online emojis help us express ourselves, but in some cases, the meaning of emojis can be vague. Emojis can also be used to mask potential online bullying behaviours. By using emojis to imply humour, individuals may be trying to pass bullying behaviour off as banter.

Create a Supportive Environment

Not all banter is bad. Engaging in banter can be a light-hearted experience between friends, but only when everyone shares the same understanding and expectations of the interaction. The line between banter and bullying may not always be easy to determine, but the factors listed above can help identify when someone might be crossing it.

It is essential to create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable speaking up about their experiences. Encouraging open communication, empathy, and respect can help prevent banter from turning into bullying. Additionally, promoting education and awareness about the differences between banter and bullying can help individuals recognise when their behaviour may be crossing a line and harming others.

We’re not saying that we can’t joke with our friends, but it is important to remember to be mindful of the impact our words and actions may have on others. Prioritising kindness, consent, and respect in our interactions can help foster a positive and inclusive culture where banter remains the friendly teasing it is, and there is no place for bullying behaviour.

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Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.