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What Is Bullying – Is it Different to Teasing?


Can you tell if someone is bullying or just teasing? Read on to find out the difference between the two.

Can you answer the question ‘what is bullying?’ Sometimes we wonder if we’re being onion-skinned or if bullying is actually taking place.

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour that usually occurs among school aged children and involves a power imbalance. A bully will usually repeat his behaviour or there is the potential for an occurrence. Children who are either bullied or who act as the bully may experience serious problems that can last for many years to come.

Power Imbalance

power imbalanceFor an episode to be considered bullying, the behaviour exhibited by the alleged bully should include a power imbalance. It’s common for children who are bullies to use a type of power. This power may be in the form of physical strength, ability to cause embarrassment to the victim–like knowing some secret the victim would much rather not reveal–or even popularity. Popular bullies can control and harm someone by getting other people to dislike the victim.

The presence of these power imbalances can alter over time and involve varying situations. The victims may stay the same eve if these changes occur. Bullying behaviours happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Types of Bullying

Is there a way to know the differences between bullying and fun? Knowing more about bullying can help you determine if the teasing is in good fun or if it involves actually bullying.

Here are some specific kinds of bullying behaviour:

  • Written or verbal abuse like targeted name-calling or jokes that cause significant emotional, mental or physical harm. A child displaying offensive posters of a victim is acting like a bully.
  • Violent bullying. This can include actual violence like physical harm. Remember, however, that threats of violence is also a bullying behaviour that must not be tolerated by all means.
  • Sexual harassment is a type of bullying that involves unwelcome or unreciprocated sexual conduct. The acts reasonably lead to offence, intimidation or humiliation.
  • People who exhibit homophobia by showing hostile behaviour towards others in relation to the victims’ gender or sexuality are acting as bullies. This includes racial discrimination, too. Whenever someone treats others differently simply because of their identity, bullying is involved.
  • Cyberbullying is becoming alarmingly common in these times. This type of bullying occurs online or through a mobile phone.

When It’s Just a Bad Day

How do we know when it’s not bullying? There are certain behaviours, which, even though they’re not pleasant, are not bullying. These usually include mutual conflict, meaning there is a disagreement in place but there is no imbalance of power. One party doesn’t have an upper hand on the other. Unresolved mutual conflict, however, can transform into bullying when one party attacks the other in order to retaliate. The attack may be physical or verbal.

Furthermore, single-episode acts of meanness or physical aggression isn’t automatically bullying. Everyone loses his temper at some point. How often and how that person shows his anger spell the difference between bullying and one isolated bad day.

Social rejection is not bullying except when deliberate and repeated attempts to cause harm is involved. When someone repeatedly causes distress then bullying may be involved.

Bullying Versus Teasing

bullying versus teasingBoth teasing and bullying typically occur when someone is made fun of. It can be ridiculing someone in a way that others think is hilarious, or it can involve making someone look silly. In teasing and bullying, certain degrees of taunting, joking or mocking are at play. Both bullying and teasing can turn into a physical interaction.

When it comes to teasing, there is usually a type of play involved. There exists a mutual agreement to joke, mock and tease. Teasing will usually not involve jabs at someone’s race, religion, appearance or other vital characteristics.

Bullying, on the other hand, never involves play or mutual consent to joke around. Bullying is very typically about poking fun at someone’s race, religion, appearance, or other vital feature as a person.

One way to know whether it is bullying or teasing is by looking into intent. Bullies tend to do what they do so they can harm their victims. With teasing, there is no deliberate attempt to harm someone.

When is Bullying a Problem?

bullying is a problemThese guidelines aren’t written in stone, however. What we should keep in the forefront of our minds—something that is overlooked plenty–is that it doesn’t really matter what the instigator does. When children are exposed to teasing and they don’t like it, the motivation of the child doing the teasing isn’t relevant.

Teasing transforms to bullying if harm is involved, even without the deliberate motive to cause harm. When anyone becomes a victim of someone’s unkind actions, no matter how innocent the intent, bullying may be involved.

If you or someone you know may be a victim of bullying, speak up. Talk to a trusted adult, look into bullying resources online and get help from trusted peers.

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