The YouTube couple Mike and Heather Martin, who call themselves DaddyOFive online, have each been convicted of misdemeanor counts of child neglect following the controversy last spring surrounding their YouTube channel, which featured videos of the couple “pranking” their children.
The judge in the case sentenced both Mike and Heather to the maximum sentence — 5 years in prison for each count of neglect of a minor — before suspending the sentence in favor of probation.
According to Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith, it was a psychologist’s evaluation of the couple’s 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son — Mike’s biological children and Heather’s stepchildren — and subsequent determination that the children had endured emotional trauma as a result of the so-called pranks that ultimately led to their conviction.
The couple first drew widespread criticism for their pranks in April, prompting Philip DeFranco, famed YouTube commenter, to review the issue in one of his episodes. The couple initially denied any wrongdoing and even went so far as to blame DeFranco for being the one to bring drama to their children’s lives. Eventually, after thorough investigation, the couple lost custody of the children.
Almost all videos on the couple’s YouTube channel were deleted after the allegations of abuse surfaced.
The couple’s defense attorney, Stephen Tully, had this to say of their actions: “We’re in a new era with social media. They have to learn the things that are appropriate and not appropriate, particularly with children.”
Now, call me crazy, but I don’t think social media has anything to do with knowing the basic difference between right and wrong. Abuse of children, whether it be physical, sexual, or emotional, is high on the list of obvious nopes, and while the couple’s YouTube success may have prompted them to intensify their actions for clicks, it’s probably safe to say their behavior toward the children would have been questionable anyway, regardless of whether the cameras were rolling or not.
In other words, nice try, but I’m not buying the social media blame game. How about a little personal responsibility for your actions, huh, Martins? YouTube didn’t make you scream and swear at your kids or cause you to orchestrate forced physical abuse among siblings. That’s all on you.
Heather Martin did have this to say after her initial denial of misconduct: “We realize that we have made some terrible parenting decisions. We wanted our kids to be happy, and we went about it the wrong way.”
That’s something, I suppose.
Here’s to hoping the children, who remain in foster care, can move forward in a healthier, more positive atmosphere.