Couple who screamed at their kids in YouTube 'prank' sentenced to probation

The parents apologized for their videos.
The parents apologized for their videos. Photograph: YouTube

A husband and wife who posted “prank” videos on YouTube of themselves screaming at the couple’s children and breaking their toys have been sentenced to five years of probation for child neglect.

Heather and Mike Martin each entered pleas to two counts of child neglect, the Baltimore Sun reported. The pleas allow them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging the evidence.

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The Maryland couple had uploaded videos to their YouTube channel called DaddyOFive. In them, the parents screamed profanities at their children, in some cases moving them to tears. They later apologized.

An investigation focused on two biological children of Mike Martin and the stepchildren of Heather Martin. Prosecutors said the kids experienced “substantial impairments of their mental or psychological ability to function”.

After the videos spread online and sparked widespread backlash this year, the Martins lost custody of the children. The probation precludes the Martins from contact with the children unless permitted by a court.

Before the videos were made private, more than 750,000 people subscribed to the DaddyOFive channel, and the footage had been viewed more than 176m times.

One video showed Heather spraying a disappearing ink on the floor of the bedroom of the youngest child, with the parents screaming at him, “What the fuck did you do?” The video showed the son breaking down crying, before Mike revealed that it was a joke, saying, “It’s just a prank, bruh!” He also said: “You just got owned!” to the children, who appeared to still be recovering from crying as the parents laughed at them.

In the face of criticisms, including from other popular YouTubers, the Martins initially published a video defending themselves. They later changed their position and apologized.

“[What] you see on our YouTube channel is not a reflection of who we are. It’s not,” Heather said in an interview on Good Morning America in April. “It’s a character. It was a show, a bad show, but it was a show.”

“I am ashamed,” Mike said in the interview. “It started out as family fun. It started with me and my kids, but then it was just about making a video and then making the next video more crazier than the next.”

Heather also claimed at the time that the children were excited to see the family’s videos getting a lot of views on YouTube, adding: “It was more for shock value.”

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YouTube at the time said it had removed ads from the DaddyOFive channel. Although the Martins’ videos were particularly controversial, the channel is part of a growing genre on the Google-owned video-sharing site of popular pranksters attracting millions of followers and views.

Most recently, a hugely popular 20-year-old YouTuber named Jake Paul, who lives in Los Angeles, has faced scrutiny for his elaborate stunts.

YouTube’s highest-paid star, Felix Kjellberg, known as PewDiePie, faced a huge backlash this week after he used the N-word while livestreaming. The 27-year-old lost partnerships with Disney and YouTube after a report in February revealed that he frequently used Nazi imagery.

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By Rachel Ncube 09/12/2017 18:07:00
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