Child abuse is usually a closely-guarded secret, but for Maryland parents Mike and Heather Martin, it was something they shared with millions of people through their YouTube Channel called “DaddyOFive.”
Pranks have been a viral trend now for many years, creating a competitive marketplace that pushes the limits of decency to attract as many viewers as possible.
But for Mike and Heather, instead of targeting random strangers in their videos, they honed in on their own children—forcing them to tears, fits of rage, or utter humiliation—all in the name of satisfying their 750,000+ subscribers.
And now, after years of abuse and online condemnation from many viewers, the Martins’ have lost custody of their two kids.
“Very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids abused,” said Rose Hall, the children’s biological mother who had lost custody to Mike some time ago, but now has emergency custody after the YouTube controversy peaked.
“The kids are in a deprogramming sort of mode in the moment,” added Hall, “They’re doing good. They’re getting back to their playful selves.”
Mike’s youngest son, Cody, was usually the primary target of abuse ranging from bloody noses (Mike claims it was fake blood), destroying his X-Box, threatening to put him up for adoption, and falsely accusing him of misbehaving.
In one video, Cody begs to be killed due to the agony he appears to suffer on-camera, saying, “I hate my life, just kill me.”
One of the videos acting as the last straw initiating the custody loss was a prank where Cody is accused of spilling ink on the carpet, after which his parents viciously shout and berate him for it.
The video, which has since been deleted from the DaddyOFive channel, can still be seen here:
An online petition was even started, urging Child Protective Services to investigate the couple, garnering over 19,000 signatures.
Popular YouTuber Philip DeFranco eventually felt compelled to chime in, saying, “They poke and prod and mess with this kid and then yell at him for being angry! They blame him for being angry but they’re the ones instigating it for money!”
Under the urgency of Rose Hall, the children’s biological mother, CPS had originally looked into the case but concluded that the parents engaged in “[appropriate] corporal punishment.”
Finally, after countless videos documenting what many call abuse, Mike and Heather Martin lost custody of two of their children—including Cody—and issued an apology video on their channel:
“This has been the absolute worst week of our life,” says Heather in the apology, “We realize we have made some terrible parenting decisions.”
Mike adds, “I understand and acknowledge and respect how everyone feels. We put thing on the internet that should not be there and did things we should not do.”
In an attempt to justify their YouTube channel, Heather eluded to the hundreds of thousands of dollars they reportedly made, “We could give them a whole lot more than we could before. We just felt like we were doing the best thing we could for them.”
On Twitter, Mike wrote, “I’m sorry everyone but I have taken down/demonetized all videos my family’s safety is more important than fake videos.”