'Child abuser' YouTube stars charged over cruel videos

A US mother and father have been charged with child neglect after a series of YouTube videos were posted online depicting them emotionally and physically abusing their kids.

Maryland couple Michael and Heather Martin are now facing two counts of neglect of a minor over incidents between November 2016 and April 2017, according to Frederick County Circuit Court records.

It's a development that'll be another blow for parents who lost custody of two of their five children in May - and they now await the outcome of a plea hearing on September 11.

The duo's attorney Stephen Tully said a plea agreement is in place, but declined to provide further details. The maximum sentence they could face for the charges is five years' prison and a US$5000 ($6860) fine.

The Martins became YouTube stars on account of their pranks, which would see them blame or deceive their children into thinking they had done something wrong, or that they were about to face serious punishment.

They did it under the YouTube channel DaddyOFive, which has more than 760,000 subscribers - but in April, a series of videos emerged showing them carrying out pranks that were labelled cruel and unfunny.

Some depicted the couple insulting, swearing and yelling at their kids for things they didn't do as they cried hysterically, while another showed the father violently pushing his youngest son, Cody, into a bookshelf.

The videos drew huge derision from the YouTube community and other internet users, prompting DaddyOFive to remove all their videos and issue an apology - but that proved too little too late, with internet users combining to get child services to take custody of Cody, 9, and Emma, 12, from them.

The two kids' biological mother, Rose Hall, has since regained her parental responsibilities to the children, and said they are getting back to their "playful selves".

Estimates of DaddyOFive's annual income before the controversy started range from between US$200,000 ($290,000) and US$350,000 ($500,000).