Bullying vs. Teasing

What is the difference? Deaf and Hard of Hearing students especially have difficulty with the distinction. It is considered a language milestone for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to distinguish sarcasm within everyday speech (Language Learning in Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing by Easterbrooks and Baker).

I asked some of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students what they thought the difference between bullying and teasing was. Here are their answers:

(signed conversation)

Student 1: Bullying is when people say mean things, and it’s not teasing. It’s not.

Student 2: I think that maybe bullying is when you don’t know a person and teasing is when you know a person. You know them, you’re friends.

Student 1: Yes, bullying you don’t know, teasing you know. Teasing makes people cry; they get upset. It’s not right. Bullying has to stop.

Student 2: It’s sad that online bullying happens too.

Student 1: That’s bullying, but teasing can be fun and creative.


(spoken conversation)

Student 3: It’s the same thing.

Teacher: When you have a good friend, and they’re kinda just joking with you about something…

Student 3: Oh, I’m fine with that, but if it’s a stranger teasing you then, no, that’s not acceptable. I’ve dealt with bullying my whole life.


So, the difference between bullying and teasing is whether you know the person? This can’t be the only factor because I know that many students are bullied by those they considered their friends, people who know them. Next steps are to look into that factor of bullying.

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