Abuse Is Not Entertainment

Abuse as Entertainment: Parents Torturing Children for Money Is Not the Most Disturbing Part

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the controversy surrounding the YouTube channel, “DaddyoFive.” If you haven’t, here’s a brief rundown, and then I’ll explain while I’m writing about it.

DaddyoFive is a dad of five who films himself and his wife “pranking” their children—a 9-year-old boy in particular—in cruel and disturbing ways. We’re not talking silly, innocent practical jokes here. We’re talking setting a kid up to be punished for something he didn’t do, then relentlessly screaming—I mean, screaming—obscenities at him, telling him he’s been adopted out to another family, or smashing his favorite toys.

The dad claims that the kids were in on the pranks, but as I watched one of their videos—or as much of it as I could stomach— it was crystal clear that the kid was not in on the prank. I had heard the videos were bad, but it was worse than I expected. Serious mental and emotional abuse. I couldn’t make it through without feeling like I was going to puke.

When the Internet started to turn on them, the couple doubled down. They made videos whining about “haters” and claimed that people who didn’t like their channel were just “jealous.”

But this week, after widespread public outcry—and after the biological mother of the two youngest brought in a lawyer—the YouTube videos were taken down and the 9-year-old and his sister were removed from DaddyoFive’s custody. (There are multiple news stories where you can see clips to get a sense of what I’m talking about, and here’s a video that goes through the controversy pretty thoroughly.)

I’m not usually one to condone breaking up families, but these kids were being psychologically tortured for all the world to see. Not only that, but the parents were making money off of their torture—an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 per year off of YouTube advertisements.

Now, I normally wouldn’t give these kinds of stories the time of day, but there’s an aspect to this that disturbs me just as much as the abusive videos. These people had 760,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel. 760,000 people who saw those videos and decided they were entertaining enough to come back for more. 760,000 people who either don’t recognize mental and emotional abuse when they see it, or who get some kind of sick jollies off of watching it happen. 760,000 people who supported the abuse of these children.

I don’t generally judge people for the kinds of movies or TV shows they watch. You may enjoy far more graphic images than I care to consume, and that’s your prerogative. But this was real. Real kids being subjected to real abuse, and people were viewing it as hilarious entertainment.

Yeah. I unhesitatingly and unapologetically judge you if you watch someone abusing children for fun. Some things don’t get a pass, and this is one of them.

The parents can claim all day long that the kids were in on it and that their pranks were scripted, but it’s obvious that they weren’t. They managed to convince the kids that it was all for jokes and that their YouTube views proved that what they were doing was good entertainment, which is a pretty sick emotional manipulation in and of itself. But even if it were all fake, having your kids cry and act scared and distraught while you’re screeching the f-word at them over and over is abuse. There’s no gray area here.

But while the couple making money off of their kids’ anguish was bad—really bad—abuse happens. We know this. It’s not okay, it’s not excusable, but it happens and has always happened. What really gets me is that there was a market for this garbage. The fact that there were 760,000 people willing to attach their identity to this channel is heinous.

Abuse is not entertainment. If anyone watched this couple’s videos and were not shocked and appalled at what they saw, then I don’t even know what to say. If you view what they put on their channel as normal or healthy in any way, shape, or form, you have a skewed sense of reality, normalcy, and decency. Period.

Sorry, I wish I could end this on an uplifting note, but I can’t. I’m just livid at people right now. I’ve been trying very hard to maintain my positive view of humanity, and overall, it’s still intact . . . but dammit, humans. Stop making it so freaking hard to have faith in you.

I will say this: Any doubts I may have about my own parenting skills run right off into the bushes when I see things like this. No matter how much you feel like you’re failing as a parent, at least you’re not abusing your children for profit or reveling in the viewing of it for fun.

There’s your uplifting note. Now go off and hug your kids.

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Annie writes about motherhood and other hilariously beautiful things. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and three children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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