Michael and Heather Martin, the parents behind the wildly popular and equally controversial YouTube Channel DaddyOFive, have lost custody of their two youngest children after inadvertently documenting child abuse.
Known for their brutal prank videos involving their five children, the couple initially tossed off the concerns of some in the YouTube community with the catchphrase, "It's just a prank, bro." However, with the loss of 11-year-old Emma and 9-year-old Cody, they now admit that things got out of hand.
Started in 2015, DaddyOFive gets its name from Michael Martin, who predominately runs the channel. His videos features pranks on his unsuspecting brood that some found hilarious, but others saw as abusive. His adopted son, Cody, was a favorite victim, and the Martins would accuse him of bad behavior, then punish him for it. With titles like "8 year old gets waterboarded" and content featuring physical violence, the videos were not so much amusing as they were heartbreaking and infuriating.
In one video, Cody appears to be violently pushed into a bookcase and suffers a bloody nose. Many of the videos end with Cody crying and pleading with his father to stop filming and pranking him. When his family attempts to cajole the boy with their now infamous catchphrase, it doesn't seem to help. In another attempt to placate their children, the Martins explain that their toys are bought with money made off of the videos.
As DaddyOFive's popularity grew, so did the scrutiny, and the YouTube community began to take serious issue with the so-called pranks. One fellow YouTuber made a video splicing some of the Martin's most disturbing scenes together, which drew attention from the mainstream media.
Michael Martin protested the negative attention and insisted that the pranks looked harsher on screen than they were in reality, however, others begged to differ. The Frederick County Sheriff's Office has removed Cody and his sister, Emma, from the Martin's home and placed them in emergency custody with their biological mother, Rose Hall. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Pranks are, by definition, at the expense of others, so the abuse allegations are tricky. However, it seems the Martin's crossed the line, hurting their children and fracturing their family.
They say they have learned a lesson and regret their judgment, but the damage has been done. Second chances do exist and, if they are given one, maybe that can be inspiration for future videos.