Machelle Hackney, creator of YouTube's hit series, Fantastic Adventures, has been arrested and charged with abuse, neglect and unlawful imprisonment of her seven adopted children. The popular YouTube channel featured Hackney’s children in superhero-like themes. The stars of Hackney’s YouTube series have claimed that horrific abuse and neglect were taking place when the camera was not rolling.
Fantastic Adventures is a YouTube channel that has accumulated more than 250 million views and features a cast of seven adorable adopted children and other adults. The performers gained views in waves with superhero themes, silly topics, and an occasional Nerf battle. The channel was based and filmed in Arizona, where the children lived with Hackney, their adoptive mother. Releasing a new video once a week, each 10-15 minute episode with titles full of cheer, exclamation points, and cookie-hunting, earned roughly a couple hundred dollars per day. A leak of information to proper authorities by Hackney’s biological, adult daughter - who appeared in Fantastic Adventures - revealed a behind-the-scenes look full of nightmares.
According to BuzzFeed, last week Hackney was arrested and charged with counts of child molestation, child neglect, child abuse, and unlawful imprisonment. All seven of her adopted children are between the ages of 3 and 15-years-old. After authorities visited Hackney’s home, the welfare check found the children in horrific conditions. One child, wearing only a diaper, was discovered in an unlocked closet. The children recapped numerous accounts of being pepper sprayed, starved, and forced to take ice baths. It was also alleged that the children were beaten with objects, graphically groped and had not attended school in years. Abuse was especially severe when the children would forget lines or not take direction during filming. Authorities found the children to appear ghost-like with dark circles under their eyes and pale complexions - which could be contributed to possible malnourishment.
Since the arrest of Hackney, YouTube has stated that the Fantastic Adventures channel has been demonetized. A YouTube spokesperson said, “When we’re made aware of serious allegations of this nature we take action, which may include suspending monetization, or, upon conclusion of an investigation, terminating channels.” Right after Hackney was placed into custody, her adult sons, Logan and Ryan were placed under arrest for failing to report abuse of a minor. Machelle, Logan, and Ryan are still being held in prison - with a possible bond in negotiations for Machelle. The video-sharing giant did not remove Fantastic Adventures until two days after Hackney’s arrest.
Numerous YouTube channels starring children, have become wildly successful and have earned more than what a salaried parent might make in a year. While many of the child-centric videos on YouTube are educational, fun and endearing, there is always the risk of negligence behind the scenes. As viral videos of children bring in more cash flow, guardians of the under-aged may be more inclined to set-up, prank, or overwork their child. The thrill of success and income leading to corruption, unfortunately, occurs. Such a case has been demonstrated in Hulu’s newest crime-series, The Act. Perhaps it is time for YouTube to take a stance on implementing stricter guidelines with videos involving children.