General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Where is the line between teasing and bullying?

Asked by wundayatta (58635points) July 16th, 2010

It is my feeling that if someone feels like they are being bullied, and it is not in good fun, then it is bullying. However, if the person being bullied does not show or say they are being bullied, how can the other person know if they are engaging in bullying behavior?

I know my parents would tease me about some things, believing it was all in good fun. I never showed it, but inside, these comments were very hurtful. I’m sure this often happens between parents and children and the children don’t feel they can say anything.

What do you think? Have you had any experiences, either taking teasing from friends or parents that bothered you more that you were willing to let on or giving it but not being sure if you were crossing a line?

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27 Answers

missingbite's avatar

It can go both ways. I’ve had people try to bully me but since I laughed it off I considered it teasing. I’m not bullied easily. It was bullying to them but not to me.

kenmc's avatar

The line is where the friendship lies. If someone helps you move, they should be able to rib you a little.

ninahenry's avatar

Teasing is just an euphemism. Teasing also makes me think of someone constantly being commented on for the same thing, e.g. being short. It really affects you subconsciously and the way you act. I don’t see why parents should give anything other than love and discipline to their children and behaviour like this is uncalled for.

Spider's avatar

Teasing = Irritating, petty provoking, annoying, bantering, taunting, joking, kidding
Bullying = Intimidating, pushy, aggressive, harrassing, overbearing, oppressing, threatening

Intentions don’t always equal perceptions, and the effect depends on various factors.

seekingwolf's avatar


I agree with your distinction. It all depends on how it is RECEIVED by the person.

Coloma's avatar


Yes, agreed, to a DEGREE! lol

I also think it is often easy to spot malevolent intent.

An intention to absolutly do harm and also, often, teasing is thinly veiled hostility.

I think that is about BOTH the intent behind the giving and the way the receiving is assimilated by the other party.

I don’t find cruelty couched as teasing to be acceptable.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If it continues after you say “stop”, it moves from teasing to bullying.

wundayatta's avatar

@worriedguy But what if you do not feel empowered enough to say, “stop?” Clearly you feel bullied, but does the bully (who probably would not identify as such) have some kind of obligation to read your mind or somehow know they have stepped across the line?

mammal's avatar

it’s all about the intentions and the motivations and the hidden agendas.

Coloma's avatar



There are just some really nasty people that delight in hurting others.

Scooby's avatar

I tend not to suffer fools! gladly! a laugh is a laugh but when it gets personal I tend to to get physical!! :-/ just me!!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Teasing- the object of your attention still smiles at you.

Bullying- the object of your attention cringes at the thought of you.

ninahenry's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I think that’s true. People who tease sometimes say “aww come on you know I don’t mean it” when the person gets upset about it but it doesn’t really make it better. Unless teasing is mild and flirtatious between 2 suitable people I don’t think it’s called for.

zophu's avatar

Most people would define the difference between “teasing” and bullying by the intention. But I think it has much more to do with the level of respect the teaser/bully has for the subject. Doesn’t matter how friendly you are, if you don’t treat someone like you have respect for them, you’re shitting on them.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t think so. I hate teasing/bullying.

ninahenry's avatar

I think teasing is bullying, but I don’t think bullying is teasing. Like how a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square.

ETpro's avatar

Teasing is done with good intentions and meant to be seen as funny and laughed off by the target. When it hurts instead of amusing, but it is continued, it just crossed the line to bullying.

lillycoyote's avatar

Teasing can be good natured, but isn’t always, bullying never is. Edit: And teasing that isn’t good natured isn’t much different than bullying.

monocle's avatar

I thought the whole point of ‘playful’ teasing meant to be cruel but clever.. so you and everyone, including the one you’re teasing, laugh at it. If your intention is to just make them feel like crap, the whole point is killed.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve always believed the same but recently we had a fluther post about how clever we all thought we were.

ETpro's avatar

@monocle Teasing can be just playfull ribbing. I have friends—my younger son is one—who banter back and forth with me all the time and neither of us get our feelings hurt.We both know we love each other enough to give up our lives for the other. Even good-natured teasing can be used to point someone’s attention at an area of their lives where they need to make changed. I’ve used it on my son’s habit of being sloppy—not picking up after himself and living in clutter. It’s helped. He’s much more organized and neat now, which has served him well in his new career as an Army officer. If I hadn’t worked to get him to organize his papers and file instead of pile, he might not have made the cut to become a commissioned officer.

mattbrowne's avatar

Only bullying is based on evil intent.

belakyre's avatar

I think the line between bullying and teasing is subjective to the “victim”. Everyone has different lines and different places where they draw them… but I think that it can be agreed that a difference between bullying and a friendly tease is all depends on whether or not the person doing it is doing it for a friendly jest or something a lot more mean.

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a strip-tease. Is that bullying? I mean, you get a guy all hot and bothered with no intention of putting out. Kind of mean, right? Even if the guy is paying for the so-called pleasure?

I have a friend who is very acerbic and quick-witted and he really doesn’t suffer fools (anyone who he thinks isn’t as smart as he is) gladly. He tends to “tease” people—stick verbal barbs in them—rather unmercifully. The only thing he seems to respect is when you can do it back to him. Surprise him. Zing him. Let him know he’s not the only brain in the room.

He’s fun, and it’s fun to rag on each other, and it turns out he’s the proverbial pussycat underneath—very damaged. But I don’t like it when he picks on new people in the group who have no idea what to make of him and wonder why he’s saying what he does and whether it’s true or not.

So I’ll try to protect them either by jumping on top of my friend (verbally) from the get-go, so he can go after me instead of the newbies, or by trying to explain to them that this is just his way and they shouldn’t pay it any attention. Sometimes I’ll just tell him to shut up. That’s always a hoot.

Anyway, I think he’s a bully, but I’ve generally had a way of standing up to bullies. He has also been bullied a lot, most recently in the county jail. There are some things he won’t talk about, but I’ll just say he lost a few teeth while in there.

It’s a classic story, though, of paternal abuse and an inability to please and on and on, resulting, later in life, in bipolar disorder. Probably resulting, I think. We don’t know for sure how environment messes with the genes on this. But a lifetime of feeling bad about yourself, I believe, contributes to the development of the disorder.

I guess I’m saying that bullies come from somewhere, and it usually isn’t pretty. But I also think bullying behavior can easily break out anywhere where people have given up on compassion. But also, if you agree on the rules, it can be fun to bust on each other.

Maybe what I’m getting from this is that the line shifts depending on context. It depends on the existing relationship between people. But perhaps most of all, it depends on compassion. If the teasing has no compassion, it is bullying. With compassion; with caring for the person you are teasing, then it is only teasing. Although there are exceptions. If the person being teased, even compassionately teased has no power to say stop, then it’s bullying, whether the teaser knows it or not. Ignorance of the other person’s feelings is lack of compassion.

PinkToyo's avatar

well , it depends On what your definition of teasing and bullying are. I’m not saying that either of these are okay. Teasing can be a form of bullying if you take the time to think about it , many kids don’t think about what the victim or other person might be feeling. I believe that many people seem to think “oh , their just playing , they aren’t serious.” i dont agree with that statement because most kids that tease and bully each other aren’t joking.

takaboom's avatar

If you feel threaten or hurt by it, then it is bulling no matter what the intention.

I don’t like teasing. Period. I am a sensitive person and I wouldn’t do it to someone else because a) that isn’t me and b) I know how it feels. Some people are just asses that don’t know when to quit. I know what you mean about the parents thing too.

Playing too much hurts people. And then they try to make it look like you are the nut because your being a baby or too sensitive. Stupid crap all the way around. I see no excuse for it.

yankeetooter's avatar

I’m funny with teasing…if someone that I like and trust does it, then I don’t mind it in the slightest, and give back as good as I get. On the other hand, if it’s someone I don’t trust, and maybe feel insecure around, then the teasing will often bother me, although I don’t always let it show…

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