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Banter vs bullying

Banter is typically playful teasing between friends, whether it’s an inside joke between school mates or a meme you’re sharing in a group chat. But sometimes it can go too far.

Banter is meant to be light-hearted and friendly, but sometimes it can be taken too far, or escalate into bullying behaviour. You might not even realise you’re doing it. 

The way we talk online can also make it more difficult to know where to draw the line between banter and bullying. 

It can be easy to misinterpret a comment or post, when you can’t see someone’s face or hear the tone of the person who posted it. In the same way, you might not have intended to hurt someone’s feelings, but what you thought was friendly banter, could be considered bullying to someone else. Here is how you can help keep it friendly. 

What do to

Don’t get too personal 

Set some limits. Picking on someone’s appearance or aspects of their identity, like their gender, race, sexuality or religion, should not be material for funny banter. They might make fun of these things themselves, but it’s a good idea to avoid these topics altogether. Also, if this is someone you know really well, you probably already know some things that your friend is insecure about. If you are aware it is a sensitive subject, it’s best to not go there!

Saying ‘I was only joking’ after the fact, doesn’t help 

Even if you really just mean it as a joke, it’s best to apologise if you made someone feel upset. Try not to argue about how you intended the joke to be taken. Doing this can often inflame the situation. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and remember, the best way to fix the situation is to apologise.

Don’t be a bystander

If you feel like someone is taking it too far in a group chat, maybe they’re just unaware of how they are making the other person feel. Gently point out to them that what they are saying can be taken the wrong way — you can do this by commenting on a post or by sending them a direct message. When they realise how they are making the other person feel, they’ll most likely let up. And if they don’t, report it or tell an adult you trust. 

If you see that someone is clearly not taking someone else’s banter as a joke, reach out to them and ask them if they are OK. Let them know that they can get help and support.