Parents Pranking Children in Viral YouTube Videos Charged With Child Neglect

Parents Pranking Children in Viral YouTube Videos Charged With Child Neglect
A judges gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NTD Television

A Maryland circuit court has stepped in and put a stop to a mom and dad who posted YouTube videos of them abusing their children.

Michael and Heather Martin, who ran the DaddyOFive YouTube channel, now face five years of probation, The Baltimore Sun reported. They were each convicted on two counts of child neglect. The blended family consisted of Michael Martin’s two biological children and Heather Martin’s three biological. The charges come after the couple had already lost custody Michael Martin’s two children. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Office of Child Protective Services began investigating the couple after several citizen complaints about the videos, Buzzfeed News reported.

Almost all videos were removed from the couple’s DaddyOFive channel. Much of the footage can still be found, uploaded by people on other channels. Even a video by the parents, offering an apology for their behavior, has been removed. Instead, the father now just runs a video game channel and the mom has MommyOFive, a much tamer take on their family life in the aftermath of the turmoil.

When the Martins first started posting to YouTube, they were mainly video blogging about family life. They gradually delved into videos that pushed the limits in violence and obscene language. Views and profits skyrocketed. The videos became more edgy and the conduct more cruel until it was just too much, ABC reported.

A turning point came after a particularly upsetting video showing one of the youngest children, Cody, in a brutal prank that shows both parents screaming obscenities at him for making a mess in his room, a mess the parents put together beforehand. Although the father tells him it was all a joke, he looks visibly defeated. Another video shows him being shoved head first into a bookcase. Later in the video blood is dripping from his nose, though the parents have claimed it was fake.

A torrent of criticism emerged both from YouTube users, especially Philip DeFranco via his channel, and from others who reported the channel to authorities.

Earlier this year, two of the children were removed and returned to the custody of their biological mother, an ex-girlfriend of Michael Martin. Investigators only removed 10-year-old Cody and 11-year-old Emma at the outcome of psychological investigation by a neuropsychologist from Child Protective Services.

The neglect sentencing took place at Frederick County Circuit Court on Sept. 11. The Maryland couple entered Alford pleas, meaning they don’t believe they are guilty but agree there is enough evidence to convict them.

Frederick County Assistant State’s Attorney Lindy Angel said they started the investigation after being alerted by “various sources.” Under the terms of the probation, the Martins cannot have contact with Emma, Cody, nor their biological mother unless approved by the court. They cannot post videos or photos of Emma or Cody to social media under most circumstances. They also need to undergo counseling and submit to evaluation.

Violating the terms of probation could result in a 10-year prison sentence.