Two children who were victims of YouTube pranks which some claimed was abuse have been taken away from their father and stepmother.
The Maryland couple would film their children’s reactions to a series of practical jokes and then post them online under the username DaddyOFive. Footage included a clip of the couple harshly punishing one of their five children for bad behaviour he had not committed and one of the family breaking his possessions in front of him. The youngsters were caught crying and screaming in response to this treatment and, in more than one post, the youngest continued even after being told it was all a joke.
These videos went viral as they racked up millions of views and thousands of subscribers to the channel in a very short space of time. However, a large number of viewers condemned the couple for being cruel to their children. After seeing clips, some of which featured the parents screaming and swearing at their children until they cried, some viewers accused the couple of abuse.
The couple denied all of these accusations on TV talk show Good Morning America, insisting that while they did engage in pranks “most of the time the kids knew about them and they were planned”. Amid the controversy, the contentious posts were taken down and DaddyOFive uploaded an apology to YouTube along with a series of tweets in an attempt to ease the outrage:
— Daddyofive (@MikeMartin1982) April 18, 2017
However, two of the five children were taken away from the couple by law enforcement and placed with their biological mother until a Child Protective Services investigation is completed. In a YouTube video of her own, she said the children were “doing good” and that they were now “getting back to their playful selves”. She said it had been “very heart-breaking and disturbing to see [her] kids be abused” in the viral posts.
Speaking to the BBC, the mother’s lawyer said they were “so excited that the children are now safe and with the Mom”. The father’s legal representative declined to comment except to say that the necessary information would be “presented to the court at the appropriate time”.