YouTube Academy: Pranks that push the boundaries

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Welcome back, loyal readers. In this week’s edition of YouTube Academy, we’re going to be talking about prank videos. Pranks can be fun and humorous, but some can push the boundaries of comedy into a danger zone. We’re going to discuss what a prank video usually consists of, some of the bigger creators in the genre and a recent story that broke out from within the prank community.

Most of you probably know that a prank is a practical joke or trick played upon another person or group of people. Prank videos range from little jokes to giant “social experiments.” The prank genre is one of the most controversial sides of YouTube, with several scandals and lawsuits taking place every year. Some prank videos are genuine, while others are outrageous and staged. Both are made for entertainment purposes only.

One big prankster on YouTube is Rowan Atwood. His channel, named after himself, has over 10.4 million subscribers with a combined view count of over 1.4 billion views. Rowan is a 33-year-old man from Ohio who’s been shooting and producing videos since high school and began his YouTube journey in 2010. He’s had several run-ins with the law during the recording of certain pranks, though no prosecution was ever made.

Rowan’s style of pranking usually involves emotional reactions from friends or bystanders and has been speculated to be fake. He claims all videos are raw and genuine.

Another prank creator is Rahat Hossain, known more by his username “MagicOfRahat”. His channel has over 4.8 million subscribers and close to 687 million views. Rahat is a 27-year-old who began posting magic videos in 2008. He then moved over to the prank side of things in 2011, with his first prank video being “Drive Thru Fire Wallet”, where he pranked drive-thru employees with a fake fire in his wallet. Go to his channel in the modern day and you can expect to see more pranks involving drive-thrus, mixed with magic videos and occasional tutorials for pranks and tricks you can do at home.

Within the last month, a story has blown up from the prank community. A daily news show on YouTube, The Philip DeFranco Show, broke the story featuring a family vlog and prank channel named “DaddyOFive.” The channel is run by a father, Mike Martin, his wife Heather and their blended family of five kids. The parents mostly posted regular day-to-day vlogs, but would occasionally post a video depicting a “prank” towards one or all of their kids.

Going through their videos it became clear that one child was singled out the most: Cody, the youngest of the five children. Some videos would show Mike and his wife or one of the older kids taking away and breaking his electronics or screaming and cursing at him for doing something wrong. This would cause Cody to burst into hysterics, crying and trying to explain he never did anything wrong in the first place. Many times he would ask to be away from the camera, but rarely was his request granted.

One video even showed Cody getting pushed into a bookcase by his father. Another showed him getting tackled by his eldest sibling. An even more shocking video depicted the siblings getting prompted by their father to slap each other, resulting in the second youngest child, Emma, to cry from the harsh slap to her cheek from her brother. These videos quickly enraged much of the YouTube community.

In response, the parents made a video with their kids explaining that people are overreacting and that all the children are fine. The kids themselves even agreed in the video. The community became even more upset, finding more and more evidence that contradicted the “fact” that the children were safe. Shortly after that video was posted, it was deleted and replaced with an apology video featuring the parents only. They explain that the videos are all fake and staged. This video, again, was taken down. Yet another apology video was posted and all other videos from the channel were deleted. This apology video was different from the others, with special microphones and edits cutting off some of their sentences.

After Philip’s initial coverage, the story exploded everywhere, prompting everyone, including police, to look into the situation. Child Protective Services also got involved and Cody and Emma are now living with their biological mother until the case is under control and final decisions are made. Pranks can be fun and games when done correctly, and many channels depict that. Others, however, tell a different story. Be weary of what you watch, loyal readers, and be safe with your pranks. From prints on paper to musings in your mind, my name’s Hannah. Thanks for reading.

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Hannah Monson