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Why This Video Of Parents Screaming And Cursing At Their Kids For A Cruel YouTube Prank Could Land Them In Jail For 10 Years

Photo: YouTube
Parents Charged With Child Abuse After One Of Their YouTube Pranks Went Too Far

In 2017, one Maryland couple faced charges of two counts of neglect of a minor after they posted a YouTube video that many of their viewers thought was abusive. They faced up to 10 years in jail after a cruel YouTube prank.

The disturbing video shows a stepmom, Heather Martin, spreading what she said was ink that would later disappear, and then explaining that she and her husband, Michael Martin, were going to blame their children for the stains on the carpet. 

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All in the name of fun, right? No, not all. 

In the video, you can hear the dad and stepmom screaming and cursing at the children, causing them to cry. Their viewers — and they had 700,000 of them — thought the video crossed the line and said it was abusive. 

Two of the children, then 12-year-old Emma, and Cody, who was 9 at the time, were removed from the home and placed back into the custody of their biological mother, Rose Hall. The local sheriff's office said they received dozens of Facebook and Twitter messages from viewers of DaddyOFive's channel claiming the kids were being abused.

She and her lawyer said the clip of the YouTube prank was "heartbreaking and disturbing."

Apparently, the video that landed them in trouble was the norm for the DaddyOFive clan. Most of the videos uploaded — the channel was completely removed from YouTube — featured Heather and Michael Martin pranking their kids to a point of humiliation. 

They yell obscenities at their kids, play games that encourage the children to hit each other, and blame them for messes they never made. 

In an apology video, the Martins said they made some "terrible parenting decisions." 

"We went from something that wasn't so bad and then we kept going more and more for the shock factor versus reality to see what could get more views," Heather Martin said in the video. "And the kids kind of feel like some of it is their fault, and it's not their fault. We're the parents and we should have made better decisions.”

Photo: YouTube

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Cody seemed to be the usual target of the pranks, and he had been subjected to verbal and physical altercations before learning from his parents that it was all a joke. 

In one video, Martin pushes Cody into a shelf, and in another, Cody is crying in a bathtub while Martin yells at him. 

“I want to be alone," Cody says in the video while crying. "You all don’t care about me. You all don’t love me. You all don’t like me. So just go. Why are you still here? Just go.”

"The Martins accept full responsibility for their parenting decisions and remain transparent and cooperative with oversight agencies," said a representative. "Their primary focus continues to be their family during this extraordinarily difficult time. There is a significant professional services team working with the entire family, all focused on healing and a more positive future, particularly for the children." 

In 2019, the Martins had their criminal sentence reduced. Their sentence went from five years of supervised probation to probation before judgement, meaning that it is not supervised and they're allowed to seek expungement of their neglect charges after three years. At the time, the judge also ordered the couple to “continue working with YouTube to remove videos."

A few months after they lost custody of Emma and Cody, they came back to YouTube posting under the name, MommyOFive, which had over 100,000 subscribers. They eventually changed the name to FamilyOFive. 

The Martins started making prank videos with their three other kids again, but in summer 2018, the channel was officially shut down when YouTube enforced stricter guidelines for any videos that involved children on their site. 

They then moved their videos to their own website, which is still up, but they no longer post videos on there, either. Their three boys, however, now have their own channel on YouTube, which is overseen by their grandparents. The channel has over 30,000 subscribers.

Mike no longer has a Twitter, but Heather still does. However, it's private. 

In 2019, Mike made a reappearance to the Internet as rapper Mikey M on Soundcloud, but his profile seems to have been deleted from the site. 

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Emily Blackwood is a freelance writer, editor and journalist who covers small business, pop culture, travel, health and wellness.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on August 17, 2017 and was updated with the latest information.