Bullying vs. Teasing Among Teens

Is the difference that teasing can be concealed and described as harmless whereas bullying is clearly harmful?
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three of her fellow students...
three of her fellow students...

Bullying and teasing are not infrequent experiences among teens. Approximately 30% of teens report having been either bullies or victims of bullying http://http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/teenage-bullying.html. While statistics on teasing are not available, it's reasonable to assume, based on experience, that almost every teen has probably experienced either teasing or bullying at some point in their lives.

So, what I have been asking myself during my frequent conversations with myself is the difference between teasing and bullying. Is teasing a source of affection and bullying a source of stress, depression and those nasty stomach pains? When we think of teasing, we think of individuals making fun of each other to some extent, maybe mildly and affectionately or ruthlessly and persistently. When we think of bullying, we conjure up images of teen girls gossiping about each other, spreading rumors, sending peers away from the lunch table or destroying reputations. We think of teen boys as mercilessly hurting each other physically and causing harm in a very clear and overt manner.

So, is the difference that teasing can be concealed and described as harmless whereas bullying is clearly harmful? The answer to this is not so clear. It's one thing when a teen girl teases her friend about her new crush. It is yet another matter when the teasing is relentless and the girl being teased is getting upset. So, does teasing turn into bullying based on how the individual being teased reacts? Perhaps. Or, is teasing based on the intention of the teaser? The answer is not clear. Speaking as a human being and as a clinical psychologist I have to tell all of the parents and teens out there that I would be happy to go through the rest of my life without being teased. Similarly, I would be delighted if teens and adults refrained from both teasing and sarcasm. I hate them both. I have never enjoyed teasing others and have never liked being teased. I know how quickly teasing can go from an easy moment to a dreadful sense of discomfort.

Perhaps, a Venn diagram might show the overlap between teasing and bullying but I don't want to use diagrams. I have a different suggestion. What about being direct and kind and honest with one another? Where did this teasing sort of communication come from anyway? Raising teens?Then don't tease them. You'll just be teaching them a form of communication that doesn't bring light into anyone's life. I say teasing is just too close to bullying to have any virtues. And, I am not simply just teasing here.

Please weigh in on this. Are any of you enjoying being teased? Do any of your teens' come home from school with a giant smile on their face after having experienced a delightful moment of being teased about a new haircut, bad grade or new outfit? Inquiring minds want to know and I'm tired of talking to myself about this issue. I think that we talk way too much about the impact of bullying and way too little about the impact of teasing.

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