By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief
YouTube is well-known for its prank videos. “It’s just a prank, brah!” is famously uttered by many self-identified pranksters after people get (deservedly) angry at them. Still, I hadn’t realized how bad some of these can be, since I mostly stay away from this area of YouTube. I had mostly just watched PrankvsPrank videos, with a couple messing with each other in non-harmful (but sometimes mean) ways. None of that prepared me for how shitty many of the popular pranksters are. I’m just going to focus on two, but I’m sure they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
I had a suggested video in my feed recently critiquing YouTuber DaddyOFive, whose channel seems to be dedicated to harassing—I mean, pranking—his young children. In the video that was being discussed, his son Cody, who is nine, has just received a new tablet and is super excited. His dad pretends to break it, and then yells at Cody and badgers him while Cody cries and tells his dad how devastated he is. When Cody later tries to run out of the room crying to get away from his dad and the camera, his dad knocks him into a bookshelf, and you can see blood on Cody’s head later on.
The video is just over 20 minutes long, most of which is Cody alternately crying and getting angry. It’s interspersed with the dad and an older son laughing while Cody’s out of the room. Looking at DaddyOFive’s other videos, harassing Cody (and presumably his other kids) seems to be a hobby of his. I can’t imagine dealing with this as a young child, especially because they should be able to trust their parents, and also have a semblance of privacy.
A more typical (sadly) prank channel I recently watched some videos by is TwinzTV, who claim to publish “the craziest pranks on the internet.” I sincerely hope they’re correct, because their pranks cross so many lines that I wouldn’t want any channel to be “crazier.” Many of their pranks seem to involve leaving an object—a phone, a bike, a scooter—out as bait to be stolen, and then injuring or assaulting the thieves.
My introduction to them was “INSANE DOWNHILL BAIT BIKE IN THE HOOD (NO BRAKES!).” In this, they left a bike along a handrail on a sidewalk. They tied a thin but strong cord to the back of the bike and to the handrail, so when the thieves took the bike and started riding quickly (downhill, as it says) away from where it was left, the bike is stopped by the rope and they go flying off of it, over the handrails, face first into pavement. What a prank! They really got them!
In others, the bikes had tasers planted on the seats, which the pranksters set off by remote to electrocute the thieves, who would then crash. In another, they hid on the other side of the road and shot the bike thief with paintball guns. In one with a bait vespa, they set up a sort of air-bag seat contraption to explode and send the thieves off the bikes while they were driving on the road. Most of these “EXTREME PRANK” videos have millions of views, and way more Likes than Dislikes, which shocked me.
These videos make me super uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. To start with, most of these theft videos have “IN THE HOOD” in their title, which implies they are going to more dangerous areas for their pranks. Extreme! However, it really just means that they are deliberately going to lower income areas to target and entrap poor people of colour. I’m not saying stealing is okay, but I am saying that leaving an unattended couple-hundred-dollar bike out in an area with a higher population of desperate people who need money, and then injuring them when they take the bike, is not okay. TwinzTV is just injuring people to get money on the internet. And like DaddyOFive, many of their videos are interspersed with them turning the camera on themselves to make stupid faces and laugh at their extreme “pranks.”
On a base level, I understand why pranks have gone to this level on YouTube. In order to earn subscribers and stand out from all the other channels doing the same shit, you need to be original. However, this is way too far. Psychologically and physically hurting your children or entrapping and injuring strangers is not okay. It will never be okay. I don’t care if your kid reacts funny when they’re angry, or if these people stole something. No one deserves that. And it makes me even sadder to know that people are watching, liking, and encouraging this content.
Hopefully it improves, but as long as these tactics earn YouTubers money and subscribers, I doubt it will.