Teasing Vs. Bullying: Is there a Difference?

As we have learned more and more about the effects of bullying on our children, we come to the question of what is the difference in Teasing Vs. Bullying.  Is one worse than the other?  Are they both things that should be taken seriously?  Where do we draw the line.  While to some of us the line is clear in that no person should have to endure physical or emotional belittling, it can be difficult to determine when punishment should be enforced and when it is a crime.  Hopefully these thoughts will clarify for you what the difference is between teasing and bullying.


Original Photo Credit: aScratch

Teasing Vs. Bullying

Teasing for many people is a fun way to joke around with people you are friends with and care about.  The biggest difference between teasing vs. bullying is that most teasing is done in a funny and gentle manner that is enjoyed by all and not meant or intended to belittle the person being teased.  When the teasing steps up to the point of becoming a derogatory event that causes emotional or physical pain for the person who is the subject, it then becomes bullying.

When Is Teasing Okay?

  • When everyone is involved and the person being teased is laughing and enjoying the fun.  An example would be to tease someone about their dislike of mustard on hot dogs and how ketchup is the only real condiment.  Everyone gets a good laugh and the mustard may be “hidden” from the victim.
  • When the teasing is not derogatory in reference to a persons ethnicity, religious preference or sexual orientation.
  • When the person being teased can ask for it to be stopped and it is.
  • When the teasing is not repeated continuously by a group without listening to the victim when they ask for it to stop.

When Is Teasing Not Okay?

  • When the person being teased is being ganged up on.
  • When the teasing picks on physical or emotional issues the person has no control over.
  • When the teasing won’t stop even when asked to quit.

When teasing falls under the “not okay” list, it then becomes bullying.  Bullying is when a person exhibits control over another person either physically or emotionally and refuses to stop.  While both may seem to be innocent at times, the lasting emotional and physical damages from extended bullying can become permanent issues in an individuals life.  Neither should be taken lightly.   When trying to determine the difference in teasing vs. bullying it is important to take into account the motive of the aggressor and victim.

Visit out bullying prevention guide to learn more about stopping bullying.

 What are your thoughts on teasing vs. bullying? Is there a difference to you?

6 thoughts on “Teasing Vs. Bullying: Is there a Difference?”

  1. Too often people just say they were just kidding or joking when confronted for their bullying behavior as if that makes it okay. We as a society need to stand up for the oppressed because by doing nothing we are giving silent approval and that is wrong. Thanks for the blog hopefully lots of people will read it.

  2. there is such a huge difference. i think people ignore bullying way to often. if affects a kid more than people know. i am raising my girls that being a bully is not tolerated in my house.

  3. This is a great topic. I even have to review this with my kids when they talk to each other. Sometimes its hard for them to tell or understand, but after talking about it they realize. It is so important to be proactive as parents too.

  4. Great distinction you made between the two. Bullying is such a big thing now, though I also think it was big in my generation too but talked about less. Children need to be educated about bullying and teens need to be reminded.

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