Parents Accused of Abusing Their Kids With Cruel YouTube 'Pranks'

daddyofive
Daddyofive/Twitter; Mommyofive/YouTube; DaddyOFive/Youtube

It's no surprise that there are people out there who would do just about anything to become a viral sensation, but what about when those people are parents and what they're doing is potentially harmful to their kids? One YouTube family, led by "DaddyOFive," has gained over 750,000 followers with their videos, which feature the parents playing harsh "pranks" on their unsuspecting, and oftentimes crying, kids -- but some viewers are worried that the supposedly "funny jokes" they're witnessing are actually child abuse.

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We've all seen videos of parents playing tricks on their kids, and while they're always sort of questionable, they're not usually the kind of thing that makes you worry about whether or not any real emotional damage is being done. Like Jimmy Kimmel's annual roundup of clips showing parents claiming to have eaten all their children's Halloween candy -- they're definitely not nice, but they're certainly not abusive.

The same can't be said for DaddyOFive Mark Martin's videos, unfortunately. Instead of parents eating all their kids' trick-or-treating spoils, these clips show Martin shoving his son so hard that he falls into a bookcase. They show an older child being egged on as he taunts and beats on his younger sibling. They show Martin's wife Heather cursing at her kids for spilling ink on the carpet until they start sobbing -- then telling them that she spilled the ink, which happens to be of the disappearing variety.

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Most of all, they show kids being driven to the point of tears by their parents, repeatedly. And viewers are starting to worry: The Martins have allegedly been reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) in Maryland, where they live -- though CPS tells BuzzFeed they cannot legally confirm whether or not they're investigating -- and an ongoing petition asking that the family be investigated has over 18,000 signatures. People have also taken to Twitter to voice their concerns and ask others to report the family to YouTube.

Daddyofive twitter
chandlerspidey/Twitter

daddyofive twitter
http_ehxnig/Twitter
daddyofive tweet
drewseph3/Twitter

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Even other popular YouTube "creators," including Philip DeFranco and Steven Williams, are concerned about the Martin children's welfare.

"When you see a child in actual pain, dealing with actual anxiety that's been inflicted, it's very simple to know what's been done there," Williams, who was himself abused as a child, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. "There is no argument to be had whether these children deserve this. And the answer is simply, 'No.'"

Williams is absolutely right, of course. Calling what the Martins do to their kids "pranks" doesn't excuse the fact that those kids could be experiencing real trauma. And for what? What kind of message are these parents sending to their children, and to children in general? That it's okay to be cruel if it means your video will go viral?

The line between virtual reality and just plain reality is already blurry enough for kids, and that's a problem -- because cyberbullying and dangerous online pranks cause REAL problems in the REAL world. How can we expect kids to know the difference between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable when hundreds of thousands of people are tuning in to see grown adults doing this kind of thing to their own children?

The couple's initial reaction to the recent uproar was to post a video entitled "Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations" [sic], claiming that their videos are staged and the kids participate willingly. They've since deleted that video and everything else on the channel, posting "DaddyOFive Founders Issue Public Apology," in which the parents are apologetic and reveal that they are in family counseling:

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It's worth noting that this new video comes after the Martins apparently hired a crisis management and PR firm, so it's hard to say how much of this is genuine. Are the videos "fake" or not? Are the kids "willing" or emotionally scarred? Whatever the Martins actually think about their videos, we can only hope that their kids are spared any further public humiliation at the hands of their parents, and that the attention this family is getting helps put a stop to online bullying for the sake of entertainment.

"I think a lot of people will say what's done is done," Williams, the popular YouTuber, told the Washington Post. "But there needs to be people, once the Internet mob moves on, who work for real lasting change for those people."

Because something does indeed need to change.

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