In today's day and age, there's no shortage of controversial parenting methods. With social media allowing word to spread like wildfire, even small-town controversies make their way into national news. Reality TV shows like Teen Mom and all its spinoffs have made controversial mothers and fathers famous. Just last week Teen Mom OG fixture Farrah Abraham's parenting style was slammed after she shared an Instagram video at a strip club, and have you seen the mixed reactions to Counting On star Joy-Anna Duggar's first pregnancy?
But one media platform that has perhaps ignited the most controversy concerning parenting techniques is YouTube. The video platform allows parents to create "pranky" or "funny" videos starring their children that end up going viral — influencing millions of people in the process.
YouTube channels like DaddyOFive and Spritual Tasha Mama rack up millions of views on their controversial videos, popularizing what would typically be an unpopular opinion — and also profiting from ad revenue along the way. Check out these controversial YouTube channels and discover how YouTube is aiding the success (and bank accounts) of these parents.
In what is the most talked-about and reported on parenting controversy this year, a father and stepmother were arrested and charged with two counts each of neglect of a minor after the YouTube community alerted authorities to their YouTube channel, DaddyOFive. They each face up to 10 years in prison.
In their popular videos, Heather and Michael Martin would pull dark pranks on their five children, oftentimes to the point where the children would cry. Many viewers called the pranks abusive. For example, in one video, Michael allegedly yelled at Cody for spilling ink (which he did not do) until he cried, when Heather later revealed it to be invisible ink.
The Martins lost custody of two of their youngest children, Cody and Emma, in April amid outrage from the public and the children's biological mother, who was awarded custody of the children.
In April, the Martins deleted all their videos on their channel except for one: an apology (watch here) where they insisted they never hurt their children — and that the family benefited financially from the ad revenue, allowing them to do things like take a family trip to Disneyworld. They also told ABC News that their videos were scripted and that it started as "family fun."
It should also be noted that although YouTube's help page states that the verification of a channel will be removed if the user breaks the site’s community guidelines, which include posting harmful or dangerous content and threatening behavior, the DaddyOFive channel remains online with its certified tickmark.
YouTube star Tasha Maile aka "Spiritual Tasha Mama" has been lighting up the internet with controversy over her bold thoughts on breastfeeding. In her most popular post, “Do I Have Sex While Breastfeeding?” (which has over 6 million views), the mom shared a memory of having sex with her now ex-husband while feeding her son.
“We are pleasure beings, we are meant to enjoy sex and pleasure and all things can be orgasmic,” Maile said in the video. “I’ve had a lot people ask me if it’s okay to breastfeed and have sex. From what I remember, I remember sleeping with my ex-husband and my son was on me breastfeeding and we would have sex from behind or something.”
The mom of three boys added: “There’s nothing bad about making love at all, ever.”
Followers have labeled Maile's story inappropriate and have even accused her of committing incest.
When she tried to clear the air in an op-ed for Romper, Maile made another shocking admission, writing that she films and sells lactation fetish videos of herself producing or pumping milk on camera. Though she says her children are never involved in the act, critics harped on her even harder as she's bringing more sexualization to the act of breastfeeding.
One mother named Violette runs a popular YouTube channel, Violette1st, made up of videos that predominately feature her son, William, and his various "freak outs."
Much of Violette1st's videos seem to be staged, like the one titled "DAD SHOT BY SON IN BUTT OVER XBOX!!", that has over 2 million views. In another, William’s father and brother appear to punish him for misbehaving by tying him to a chair while they set his Xbox One on fire and destroy it with an axe.
Staged as these videos may be, it doesn't stop the channel from documenting William's "misbehavior" for the past six years, racking up over 69 million total channel views.
In some videos (like one titled "WILLIAM REFUSES TO SEE THE 'SPECIAL' DOCTOR!!!"), Violette alludes to the fact that William's misbehavior may be attributed to a mental illness — whether or not it's real or part of Violette's "show", we don't know. Regardless of William's mental state, the videos still depict a misbehaving child being humiliated, essentially in front of millions of people. Thousands of YouTube users leave comments mocking William's physical appearance and personality.
Staged or not, the videos posted by Violette1st appeal to an audience who enjoys watching the antics of a real dysfunctional family — who in the end, profits from thrusting its child in the spotlight and in harm's way. After all, tying your child to a chair and starting an open fire with lighter fluid near him doesn't exactly inspire good parenting decisions.
The videos feature a father and his two children, a son and a daughter, the former being labeled "Kid Temper Tantrum." Like Violette1st's videos, much of Oh Shiitake Mushroom's seem staged as well, and also leads to poor parenting decisions.
In one video, "Kid Temper Tantrum" (his real name is Leland) can be filmed holding a "homemade fidget spinner", which is actually just three sharp knives glued to piece of plastic. In another, the child lights a fire in a saucepan inside the family's home.
Shortly after DaddyOFive's channel started to receive backlash against its controversial videos, Oh Shiitake Mushrooms seemed to defend the channel, writing in the description of a video that “Daddyofive is a good channel with kids also. A lot of times we have been compared to their work.” Later, Oh Shiitake Mushrooms seemed to change its tune about DaddyOFive, adding that their children are in on the pranks: “So, a lot has come out about [DaddyOFive] since we did this video. Our kids are NEVER harmed during our videos. Our kids will NEVER be physically attacked and they are in on any ‘pranks’ we do. All of our videos are skits and are purely for fun and the kids have a blast doing them.”
While YouTube's stricter advertising policies have ensured that some of the questionable parenting videos are now unmonetized, the videos still remain online, despite conflicting with the site's community guidelines. In the wake of the DaddyOFive controversy, it's clear that larger issues are at stake here other than video views — like the welfare of children.