YouTube vloggers Michael and Heather Martin have been sentenced to five years of probation for the treatment of their children which featured in their videos on the site and have now been banned from the platform.
They posted videos under the name FamilyOfFive and DaddyOfFive and made videos about their family mostly involving them pranking their children. The pair were sentenced to five years of probation for child neglect in September last year after viewers expressed concerns over the treatment of their children in the videos.
Both accounts were hugely popular and generated millions of hits, forming a core part of YouTube’s family friendly content, however viewers began to raise the alarm after videos were posted showing Michael Martin instructing his sons to slap his daughter in the face resulting in her being hurt and crying and another where one child was reduced to tears after being yelled at for spraying invisible ink on his bedroom floor, at the end of the video, the Martins revealed the whole thing was a prank eliciting more upset from the child.
Following their conviction, the Martins lost custody of two of their children and deleted all their videos on the DaddyOfFive account before setting up FamilyOfFive and moving to a new state where they continued to produce content and racked up more views and subscribers. YouTube has now closed this new channel as well as another run by the family and banned them from the site completely.
Is the banning of the Martins a signal that the time has come to regulate YouTube better so it can protect both its performers and viewers? At the moment, there is no regulatory body that examines YouTube, the advertiser’s standards agency does have rules in place for British YouTubers uploading sponsored content, but pranksters and children featured on family channels are not protected by the same regulations that those on television do.