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Where do we draw the line between acceptable language and unacceptable language?

Banter or bullying image

A blog from National Coordinator of ABA about banter and bullying

What is banter?

The dictionary describes banter as:

the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks

Some tips for professionals (adapted with Chris Gibbons, Director of Inside Inclusion):

  • Understanding the four elements of bullying is vital to knowing whether something is bullying: intentional, hurtful, repetitive, involves a power imbalance
  • Just because ‘banter’ doesn’t constitute all the elements of bullying doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
  • All offensive, threatening, violent and abusive language and behaviour is always unacceptable, whatever your role
  • This includes any negative language or behavior in relation to / referring to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex (gender), sexual orientation
  • Language and behaviour can have different meanings, in different contexts. If you’re unsure, ask what was meant
  • Just because someone uses certain language to refer to themselves it doesn’t necessarily means it’s acceptable, nor does it make it ok for you to use it
  • Just because you think something is banter or a joke doesn’t mean other people will
  • People won’t always feel confident to speak up if they are offended by something. They might even go along with it so as not to draw attention to themselves
  • Third parties might be offended, even if they’re not part of your conversation
When does banter turn into bullying diagram from John Khan, Anti-Bullying Practitioner
Caption: image John Khan, Anti-Bullying Practitioner

Some suggested questions to ask young people (adapted from John Khan, Anti-Bullying Practitioner):

  • What is banter?
  • Can you give me some examples of banter?
  • When does banter turn into bullying?
  • How do we know if we cross the line?

  • How might we know if we have ‘crossed a line’ with someone?

  • How might they be feeling or behaving? 

  • Do people use the term banter to disguise bullying?

02 Jun 2017