Best Practice

Bullying vs banter: Where do we draw the line?

We often hear people say that ‘it was only banter’. But where does playful ‘joshing’ turn into something hurtful and when does that become bullying? As planning begins for Anti-Bullying Week 2018, Martha Evans considers how teachers can tell the difference

Early on in my career I was confronted with a dilemma within a training session with volunteer sports coaches. At the session, I asked the group: “What is the difference between bullying and banter?”

The room went quiet until a very confident hand popped up at a table at the back of the room: “The difference is if I call you a bad name when I don’t know you, that’s bullying. But if I call my mate here (a sheepish looking man sat next to him started looking nervous) a fat *****, then that’s banter because he’s my mate.”

The room went silent and with it being one of the first training sessions I’d delivered, I had a choice. Do I challenge what he said and potentially make the embarrassment for his friend last even longer? Or, do I skip over it and pretend it didn’t happen? I’m ashamed to say, being relatively inexperienced, I skipped over it. But it stuck with me and I’ve replayed repeatedly what I should have said since.

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