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Banter or Bullying?

We all engage in a bit of friendly ‘banter’ with our mates from time to time but do you know when to stop?

Banter can be described as playful teasing between friends, usually an equal and generally funny exchange. Whether it’s at school, at home between siblings or in the locker room, there will always be comments thrown around in jest.

It also has a tendency to escalate… Sometimes it goes too far and quickly moves from being friendly lighthearted fun, to offensive and straight up mean. Even worse, some people may experience actual bullying which is passed off as banter. It can be so subtle that you don’t even notice that you’re doing it!

Those who make the comments might even believe that what they are saying is a joke and not intended to hurt, when in reality they are being insensitive to their friend’s feelings.

Whether you’re on the receiving end of it, or whether you really are full of banter, here’s how to make sure your ‘bantz’ isn’t in fact bullying in disguise.

When does banter become bullying?

It’s often the case that the person on the receiving end of this ‘banter’ feels like they can’t speak out about it because it may seem like they can’t take a joke. Nobody wants to be seen as the friend who can’t take a joke.

1. Keep it clean

Know your limits, don’t laugh at someone’s appearance, their race, sexuality, identity or disability. Not cool.

2.  If it isn’t funny, don’t laugh

If you have to fake a laugh to brush off a hurtful comment, you’re only encouraging more comments. If it goes too far, let them know.

3. Don’t stand by and let it happen if someone is clearly not having fun

Try not to be a bystander, if someone else is clearly not enjoying a bit of a banter, then don’t be afraid to point it out. Often the person saying the hurtful comments will stop when they realise that they don’t have an audience.

4. Don’t pick on something you know someone is already insecure about – it’s cheap!

Never pick up on a feature that you know is a sensitive subject for someone. Laughing at someone’s appearance when you know they’re self-conscious is a low blow – talk about kicking someone when they’re down!

5. Saying ‘it’s just banter’ or ending your sentence with ‘just kidding’ doesn’t unsay a hurtful comment

Just because you say it’s banter, doesn’t mean it is. Think before you speak and ask yourself, would I find this funny if the tables were turned? Remember that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Most importantly, Laugh with your friends, not at them…


How should you deal with your friends if they are bullying you? Read our guide below to find out.


If you’re being bullied and need to talk, join our community or get help here, Ditch the Label are here for you.

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