I greatly dislike YouTube prank channels. Pranks are all well and good, but most of the time those prank channels are scripted and fake, and it annoys me that they try to pass things off as authentic. I’m all for entertainment, but stop trying to pass off ‘social experiments’ that you’ve concocted in a script and editing room for documentary-style truth.
However, I have never hoped for videos to be fake more than when I first stumbled onto the DaddyOFive videos. The YouTube channel sported a combination of personal vlog and prank videos, the latter consisting of a Maryland father and mother pulling pranks on their five children. I use the term ‘prank’ loosely, of course, because if anyone has seen the videos, they would know that these are not pranks.
DaddyOFive, identified by the Philly Voice as Mike Martin, has (or rather had) over 750,000 subscribers for the verified account. The majority of the time, Martin’s videos contained set-ups for outrageous situations so that he and his wife, Heather, could then scream and berate their children, provoking horrific emotional reactions for their own amusement. They cruelly destroy the children’s possessions, frame the kids for bad behavior before shouting at them, and in one particularly cruel video they convince the children that they are under a Purge-style attack, terrifying the little ones and arming them with baseball bats and other weaponry to defend themselves.
Typically, I prefer to list the facts of a situation as objectively as possible before interjecting my own opinion, but in this case, there really is no other way to describe these videos. When pitching this topic idea to the editor here at TrigTent, the possibility of things getting blown out of proportion was discussed. We’re all familiar with the internet mob, and unfortunately, it’s rather disturbing how difficult it can be to distinguish between what’s real and what’s scripted these days. Upon research though, the few videos that I managed to watch made me not only uncomfortable, but rather emotional. I wanted to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but it’s next to impossible.
It all started with a video posted April 12, entitled “Invisible Ink Prank! (Epic Freakout).” Father Mike and mother Heather spray the floor of their son Cody’s bedroom with invisible ink, and then proceed to film 6.5 minutes of deranged screaming and their son’s terrified response.
“Get your f–king a– up here!” Heather shouts down to the kids. “What the f–k did you do?! What the f–k?!” she screams repeatedly, as her husband films.
“What the hell is that,” Mike says, panning out to a mess of strewn Uno cards and fake ink spilled everywhere.
“I didn’t do that!” Cody says, breaking down in tears and clutching his chest in fear. “I swear to God I didn’t do that!” he explains frantically. “Mom and Dad, I didn’t do that! I swear!” His siblings in the frame of the camera are visibly distressed, with one brother even starting to get upset as well. Cody’s denials only send his parents into further fury, as they lay into the boy.
“You're writing a thousand sentences,” Mike yells. “I'm gonna have to sell all your Pokemon stuff!” The bewildered boy breaks down in tears as the prank drags on, before Heather finally reveals that she sprayed the disappearing ink on the floor.
“It's just a prank, brah,” the dad tells the stunned boy. “You guys got pranked hard.”
Yeah brah, because watching Cody get tomato red in the face, crying and screaming and physically frightened is just a bucket of laughs for everyone.
With over 400,000 views before it was removed, Heather explains that Cody had already gotten in trouble previously for spilling ink on his carpet, and she decided to trick him for some amusement. It’s a disturbing trend that popular YouTuber Philip DeFranco noted in his analysis of the situation and the DaddyOFive channel in general: the majority of pranks, screaming, and physical altercations involve Cody being the one singled out. His coverage was sparked by the first ‘apology’ video issued by the family, entitled ‘Blocking the Haters’ which has since been removed as well as the original prank video.
“A lot of people are really pissed off about this video because we’re yelling and the kids are crying and everything like that and apparently it’s upsetting a lot of people,” Mike said. He goes on to explain that Cody and his other children are fine with the prank despite the online outrage. Heather even asks, “Was anybody traumatized?” to which the children reply with “No!” Cody goes on to say, “I don’t even know what that word means, but no.” During one particularly telling moment, one of the kids tells his father, “At least you’re not beating us like most parents.”
The standards are clearly very high in the Martin household. That non-apology video completely failed to acknowledge that what they were doing was upsetting the children, and instead simply blamed their critics for causing unnecessary drama. Between that non-apology video and DeFranco’s in-depth dive into the Martin’s YouTube history, the online world imploded. If you have not had the opportunity to watch DeFranco’s coverage, please take a few minutes to here, because he created a montage of clips that he deemed disturbing and potentially abusive.
Curious about the context of these clips, I went to the source to review. Edited video is always subjective, so I always try my hardest to find full videos. One video in, I was shocked. Two videos in, I was stupefied by the animosity and anger displayed by the parents to their own children. Three videos in, I began to feel physically nauseous. Four videos in though, suddenly everything cut out. It seems either Mike Martin or someone else in their family was systematically removing videos. As of writing this, all previous videos have been deleted from the DaddyOFive channel. The only one left up is an apology video, titled Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations. I can only presume they meant ‘accusations,' but unfortunately, the removal of all other videos seems rather incriminating. Many of the family’s online fans claimed that the Martins were “simply having fun and acting like a typical, everyday family,” why did they feel the need to remove all videos? Doesn’t exactly lend credence to the ‘false accusations’ aspect of their defense.
Some users online managed to retain some evidence of the Martins’ misdeeds though, with several particular videos gaining a lot of traction. There’s the one where Mike advises his kids to slap each other in the face during a game he created, with the boys’ sister getting hit so hard she cries. Or the one where Cody’s older brother, easily twice his size, body slams Cody to the floor with the encouragement of his mother. Or the one where Mike shoves Cody into a bookshelf, and it appears as though Cody has a bloody nose as a result. This has since been explained as “red ink” by the Martins, along with the claim that all their videos are fake.
I don’t know if they were fake. If they were, then those children should probably be in the next big-budget Hollywood movie because they’ve demonstrated some insane acting chops. I haven’t even gotten into the allegations from Cody’s biological mother, who has come forward claiming Cody and his sister Emma were removed from her care with fabricated evidence, and that she had already been working with police to try and remove them from Mike Martin’s custody. Unfortunately, Maryland police view the videos from the Martins as corporal punishment; they only act in cases of sexual assault or extreme physical violence (language implies hospital visits are required). Maryland, that seems like really stupid laws on your part, but that’s beside the point.
Look, I don’t have children. And I’ve always been a big believer in trying not to judge how other people raise their kids because at no point should I ever be a factor in that relationship. But in my opinion, DaddyOFive is the worst type of parent. He, alongside his wife, are abusers. I’m referring to more than just physical abuse (although the bruises Cody sports on his arms in at least one video are red flags). The emotional turmoil these parents are causing their kids is heartbreaking. I got choked up watching some of the children’s reactions because it brought back memories of my own childhood terror, with controlling parents and a mother who refused to take the proper medications for her mental illness. These children may not know any better, but the treatment they’re experiencing will have negative repercussions in their future. Cody is already displaying some unfortunate coping tendencies, as cited in a vlog where it’s stated he is getting left behind from a family trip to Disneyland because he smeared poop around the house. Fun fact: Fecal smearing is actually called scatolia in medical literature, and frequently occurs in individuals with developmental delays and post-traumatic stress.
But aside from all that, here’s what disturbs me the most. Even if those videos are somehow scripted- that’s a big if- Mike Martin is still using his children’s fear and humiliating his family for money. DaddyOFive receives ad revenue from the views on their videos, so perhaps upping the ante and getting more attention is exactly what the Martins were aiming for.
Regardless, I loathe parents who exploit their children for financial gain. The mentality of these “Toddlers and Tiaras” parents sicken me, but they get more and more prominent every day with easily accessible platforms.
The world is tough enough as it is. The last thing kids need is to be blooper-reel props or cash machines by the very people who are supposed to be looking out for their best interests. Purposely placing your children in unnatural, and in this case terrifying, situations is disgusting. Your job as a parent is to protect your children and raise them to be decent human beings. Children are not toys, meant for pure amusement, nor are they a vehicle for making a quick buck.
DaddyOFive has proven to me that he is an abhorrent individual. I hope that his children will get the help that they need, and this despicable style of “pranking” children into tears ends.