The Line between Harmless Fun and Bullying

School is generally where an individual’s character is shaped and their self-esteem either boosted or crushed. Children who endure a traumatic experience at school are more likely to develop negative feelings towards themselves which will be reflected in the way they interact with other people and the likelihood of them succeeding in life. All this can stem from the physical and emotional bullying inflicted on them by some of their peers who decided to pick on someone more vulnerable than themselves.

The prevalence of bullying is perhaps not that surprising since school is a dog-eat-dog environment where cliques are based on mutual interests. Bullies are often trying to gain approval from the peers within their own social group. Perhaps the hope is that if they pick on someone it will prevent individuals from other cliques discovering their own weaknesses and insecurities and targeting them. It is a case of kill or be killed.

Some children just seem to attract the attentions of bullies their attitude must exude a high level of self-consciousness and insecurity, and bullies somehow manage to find their weakness and to keep on chipping away at any confidence they may have had in the first place. Sometimes it is a physical deformity or an aspect of their appearance which marks them out as different, other times it might be a personality trait which makes them stand out. There are even cases where there is nothing particularly remarkable about an individual, but they have to face constant taunts anyway, which makes them feel self-conscious about an attribute which they do not even possess.

There is no such thing as harmless fun when it comes to bullying. Harmless fun requires the involvement of individuals on an equal footing, on equal terms, engaging in conversation. This might involve some bantering between individuals who are not exactly the best of friends; there may contain some witty or sarcastic remarks, but the exchanges generally remain good-natured. There is no sense that one person is dominating the discussion or that one person is intentionally setting out to inflict emotional cruelty on the other.

The line between harmless fun and bullying is even more concrete when it comes to physical conduct. Bullies often prefer to get inside their victim’s head, rather than inflict wounds which act as visible evidence of their actions, but some find that taunting is not enough, and so do beat up individuals weaker than themselves.

Cuts and bruises are the likely result, but they perhaps do not create as much damage as the emotional and psychological damage which years of verbal assaults can create. Eventually the physical scars will go away, but it is much more difficult to erase the emotional scars which a bully will have knowingly inflicted on their victim. Bullies do not intend their actions to be misread as harmless fun, and know exactly what the consequences of their actions will be, which is precisely why they do it.