‘It’s just a prank, brah’ – where should the line be drawn for prank channels?

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Recently, the YouTube channel DaddyOfFive has been gaining a lot of attention – and not the positive kind. Discussed by Philip DeFranco on his channel last week- it has become a hot topic of conversation. Some are saying the parents are abusing the children; others are saying that it isn’t abusive, but the parents are terrible for doing things to upset the children for money. However, they also have a very supportive audience who have been defending them; an audience comprising of just over 750,000 subscribers.

One of their latest videos, ‘Invisible Ink Prank! (Epic Freakout)’ has been getting a lot of criticism – the parents put invisible ink on one of their son’s floors and they were going to act like he’d done it himself. We can hear the parents screaming, shouting and swearing at one of their young sons, Cody, as he cries and protests that he didn’t do it until the dad says “It’s just a prank, brah”. In response to criticisms, they made a video called ‘Blocking All The Haters’ where they said people were just hating on them because they were bored, that people don’t understand the family, people criticising are jealous and causing them problems, and the children aren’t abused – they’ve been investigated by Child Protective Services ‘for the Youtube channel’ already.

Prank channels have always done some frighteningly bad things. Just look at when Sam Pepper was in his heyday: he made videos with a fake hand to grope girls; he even fake-kidnapped someone and shot that person in front of his best friend, to make the friend think he was dead. Are fake deaths not enough? Now must we add channels containing child abuse? Even if you don’t think it’s abuse, screaming at a child and telling them that they’ve done something wrong when they haven’t, over and over again just for a prank, isn’t parental achievement. The kids themselves seem to have pretty low standards for what constitutes abuse – one of them says in their ‘Blocking All The Haters’ video “At least you’re not beating us, unlike other parents.”. What have the parents told their kids about ‘other parents’ for that to seem like a good standard to have?

Not just that, but they’re profiting from upsetting their children, and seemingly picking on the same child repeatedly – Cody. We hear him say “Stop blaming me for something I didn’t do, I hate it when you all do this,” making it seem like everyone’s ganging up on him; he screams at his brother and dad to stop breaking his new tablet; he repeatedly tries to leave and be left alone to calm down and we hear him screaming that he hates his family; his mum tells him that he’s “the only one in the house that can’t take a joke”. He asks why he’s made to go through everything just for a prank, says he needs to be left alone to calm down, and it gets worse. In ‘Tablet Destruction Prank’, the dad pushes Cody against a bookcase and he hits his head – we later see him with a scab on his nose and a bloody pillow. But according to the family, that’s just red ink. Even if that’s true, this child is still being emotionally and physically abused.

Of course, we don’t know how real everything on a prank channel is, but if these kids are acting then they deserve Oscars because it all seems pretty real to me. We’re told in the ‘haters’ video that the children get to decide if the video goes up, but the kids also talk about all of the cool stuff they get because of YouTube like going to Disneyland. Is this a case of them being given incentives to allow the parents to upload the videos? That’s literally textbook abuse: doing something bad, buying a present to excuse your behaviour, making up, doing another bad thing, and so on.

And if this is the worst case scenario and these children are being abused, they’re going to say they aren’t because children don’t want to go against their parents. They may not even know they’re being abused because they just don’t know any differently. We even hear the father say in one video, as one of his sons wants to be left alone, that “I’ve gotta vlog my life, you know that, we’re YouTubers now.” It would seem that making money from vlogs is more important than a child being upset from his family poking and prodding at him all the time.

They’re raising children who could end up bullying others ‘as a prank’. They’re raising children who don’t want to just go and play outside but need to sit and process their emotions because of how upset they are. They’re putting videos of their children having breakdowns on the internet for anyone to see – what happens if it gets to their schools? They could end up being bullied at school, coming home where they’re bullied, and going back to school to another video being shared. Cody even says at one point that he’s going to burn the house down. That’s not a feeling a child should have.

Hopefully, these children aren’t being abused, and they are perfectly happy and fine. But if not, we may have a more sinister situation on our hands than we thought and it could be another case of YouTube prank channels going too far.

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Politics and International Relations graduate, Live Editor 2016-18, now a semi-functional adult and journalist. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about the above @cmkavanagh on Twitter.

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