Screenshot: DaddyOFive Founders Issue Public Apology

Goofing with kids can be fun sometimes. For instance, try convincing a niece or little brother that there’s only one Property Brother, then watch them work tirelessly to prove you wrong. It’s hilarious. What’s less hilarious? Well, take the YouTube channel of DaddyOFive.

DaddyOFive, a.k.a. Mike Martin, who amassed more than 750,000 subscribers after posting videos of his wife, Heather Martin, and himself playing pranks on their children that bypass lighthearted playfulness and veer headlong into emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. The Martins cussed violently at the kids, pushed them around, and, in one stomach-churning video, forced one child to slap his little sister in the face. All in the name of lulz!

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A new piece from The Washington Post outlines the story, recruiting a psychologist who treats abused children along the way. He naturally “was distressed and had trouble sitting through the videos forwarded.”

Luckily, due to the involvement of concerned viewers and other YouTube personalities, Child Protective Services and law enforcement officials in the family’s hometown of Baltimore are now involved. As of last Wednesday, the Martins deleted all videos from their channel. The couple initially defended themselves, posting a new clip that cited the pranks as “fake” and the children as willing participants.

“Faked” or not, Caffaro said, behavior like what he saw in the DaddyOFive videos can have a negative effect on children. “The family is teaching their children that emotional and physical violence is a way to solve problems,” he said. And besides, children are usually not capable of making the cognitive distinction between “fake” and “real” abusive behavior, even if the parents are.

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Soon, that video was gone and an apology was posted. What that means for the children, however, is unclear, and the Post article ponders how situations such as these might unfold once the internet mob moves on.

The whole situation raises some interesting questions about policing material in an age where content can be posted by anyone, anywhere. As people grapple with increasingly powerful hoaxes and what has been dubbed a “post-truth” age, the question of what’s real and what’s only for the lulz is becoming blurrier. The shit-posters on the Trump train, after all, would have us believe that much of their hate speech exists only as satire. The DaddyOFive saga is a clear example of how harmful the blurred line between an internet facade and real life can be.

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