The thin line between harmless fun and bullying

Some children really don’t know where to draw the line at harmless fun and can often become bullies without really meaning to.

As an example, consider this all-too-familiar tale: A teacher made comments about using text messages between classmates. A couple of the boys had let it get out of hand and had even gone on to leave joke voice messages on a fellow pupil’s voicemail. She was very upset at what had been said to her, yet the boys were mystified.

“It was only a bit of fun!” they maintained, but after being confronted with a tearful classmate, they finally conceded that they had gone too far.

Cyber bullying is also becoming a huge issue with children on the Internet, with many parents being left totally in the dark about what their child is doing and many of them maintain that as long as it is done online, there is no harm in it.

Cyber bullying can take the form of veiled threats, sending someone pornographic images, stealing another person’s identity, or even creating a bogus account and displaying personal information belonging to the victim. Funny though the perpetrators may find this, it can represent a living nightmare to the persecuted child.

In school you may find bullying in the form of not allowing a child to “join in” on a regular basis. Ostracizing another pupil is very upsetting for the victim. In days gone by, name calling seemed to be a ‘thing’, with the worst being “four eyes” if you wore glasses, or racist comments. These comments would be considered lame by the standards we see now.

Children can be very sensitive and bullying can even take the form of using that sensitivity against the child. For example, whispering to each other and not making eye contact when the child passes by, handing round notes to each other, looking at the pupil and laughing loudly from a distance.

Within a very short time that pupil may find herself stripped of all self esteem and confidence, and all caused by fellow peers having so called “fun”. How often have we heard the words; “we didn’t mean to cause any harm miss?”

If this kind of issue is allowed to continue, as adults do we carry on this harmless fun? Where should the line be drawn at work? What may start off as an office joke can build up into a sensitive issue for the victim involved. As parents, where do we draw the line at punishing our children? Do practical jokes stand up under scrutiny, or are they another form of sophisticated bullying?

As children grow older they use more elaborate behavior to make sure that they get their own way in life. Could this be exhibited in the abusive behavior towards a spouse or child?

Bullying can take on many forms, and using it as a form of “getting a laugh” in a child’s formative years is to be frowned on in a huge way. Any kind of practical joke, derision, and negative behaviour that gives a person enjoyment at the expense of another, will allow the youngster to gain an element of power over the victim. It interferes with the process of building feelings of empathy and consideration which is an essential element to ensuring that we all get on with each other as sensible members of society as we grow older.

Only having a laugh? Sometimes, it’s a lot more serious than that.