YouTube has created a path to success that didn’t exist a decade ago. Now teenagers can make millions of dollars showing how they do their makeup, families can make a fortune producing goofy rap songs about parenting, and an anonymous lady who just unwraps toys made $5 million in a single year. That sort of success is extremely rare, but people know it exists, and that is causing some problems because YouTube video production is a largely unregulated industry. If you wanted to send your children to Hollywood to be actors or put them in commercials or on reality TV, there are laws and regulations in place to protect them and their money. If you want to put your kid on the Internet for advertiser money, the only one protecting that kid is you. Some parents don’t have their kids’ best interests in mind, and some parents have terrible judgment, and that’s why the Internet is responding with outrage to one family’s latest “dad pranks” video that looks a hell of a lot like child abuse.
There are a lot of family videos on YouTube, and a lot of prank videos, but the parents behind a YouTube channel called Daddy of Five decided to prank their kids. Most prank videos involve pranking other adults, not children, and if they do prank the kids it’s something that is intended to be a nice surprise like when the family told a little boy he was going to a broccoli farm and then took him to the circus instead. But the Daddy of Five parents decided to make a video prank wherein they poured disappearing ink on their kid’s bedroom floor, and then pretended to think the kid had spilled ink on his own floor.
That sounds like kind of a weird prank and the punch line doesn’t really make a ton of sense. The prank was basically “We will make our child think that we think he did something wrong, and we will flip out and scream at him and and he will be terrified, because he is terrified of us.”
I have no intention of directing any traffic over to the Daddy of Five channel, but YouTuber Philip DeFranco made a video of his own about the terrible videos, the ensuing contoversy, and the fact that it looks a lot like emotional abuse. There’s footage from the original video in his show, so please consider this a content warning for emotional abuse. It’s really disturbing.
The kids’ mother is laughing as she describes the premise of the prank, and how she spilled ink on the floor and they’re going to pretend they think the kid did it. The moment the prank actually starts, though, something seems very, very wrong. Just the tone and the volume with which the mother is screaming, “What the fuck did you do!?” is enough to send chills down a person’s spine. Both parents are screaming “Fuck” at the little boy, and they scared the hell out of me, and I’m a grown-ass woman watching through a computer screen.
The little boy looks legitimately terrified. He’s red in the face and sobbing desperately.
“I didn’t do it, I swear!” sobs the little boy.
“I know you’re fucking lying again!” his mother snarls at him.
The other four kids even look terrified, and one of them starts to cry too. They all seem terrified of their parents. It’s not funny and there’s no punchline, and it is fucked up.
The Daddy of Five YouTube channel has over 700,000 subscribers, and the parents seem to do this sort of thing a lot, even though the little boy who takes the brunt of the pranks cries and tells them to stop filming him. The dad says, “No! I gotta blog my life, you know that.” In another video the mother screams at him that he needs to learn to “take a fucking joke,” while he’s sobbing face-down on the bed. There’s even a prank where one of the older kids puts on a mask and pretends to be a burglar to scare their dad, and the dad pulls a gun on him.
The parents posted a response video called “Blocking all the Haters,” in which they insist that everything is fine and that it was “just a prank,” and that the people who don’t like what they were doing to their kids are just “haters” who are “jealous.”
What am I jealous of? The fact that nobody has ever yelled at me like that in my life? The fact that nobody has ever screamed at and exploited me for money?
“At least you’re not beating us like most parents,” the oldest kid chimes in, and that’s a pretty low bar for how children should be treated.
The mother insists that the “haters” are the ones who cause drama for the children and cause problems for their family. She also smugly told viewers who said they were going to call CPS because of the video that in fact the family has already been investigated by CPS because of their YouTube channel, and that CPS said they’d done nothing wrong. Maybe CPS should take another look, though.
This is awful and it’s not a “prank,” it’s performative cruelty for money.