From Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay to Alan Sugar, television shows are full of characters that don’t mince their words and tell people exactly what they think of them. Reality TV and soap operas are filled with people saying horrible things to each other.
But can we separate banter from bullying? And should the alarming number of young people who report being ‘bullied’ just learn to take a joke and give as well as they can take?
Young people who are resilient and who generally have healthy self-esteem and good relationships, may be able to laugh off comments as ‘banter’. That is, until they are having a tough day, or the joke hits a nerve or is repeated once too often.
Social media encourages people to be funny, outrageous and perhaps to copy those on TV by being smart, cool and not giving a damn.
So what is deemed to be bullying? There isn’t a definitive answer. Imagine a continuum from being sensitive and caring at one extreme to being abusive and hurtful at the other. In normal relationships we act in different ways. See the Huffington Post’s article on whose perception of bullying matters.
When we are systematically and repeatedly horrible to someone, even when we are aware how distressing and difficult this is for them, and when we have some power over them, then this is bullying.
Experienced staff at Northorpe Hall Child & Family Trust working with children with low self-esteem, anxiety and who have experienced traumatic events, know that low-level bullying can have a big impact on some, while others are able to cope.
By Tom Taylor, director at Northorpe Hall Child & Family Trust