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Fall of 7 Passengers Family Channel: Ruby Franke Under Trial

Ruby Franke’s child abuse charges exemplify the negative impacts of family YouTube channels
Ruby Franke on a talk show. Photo Courtesy: People Magazine


  Utah native and popular YouTube star Ruby Franke has pled guilty to 4 counts of child abuse after a recent court hearing. Accused of harming her two youngest children, Franke accepted a plea deal and her prison time will be determined in court on Feb. 20, 2024. Each count of child abuse could see Franke serving up to 15 years. 

  Known for her parenting advice and strong familial values, Franke ran a YouTube channel called “8 Passengers”, which highlighted her hectic everyday life with 6 children. Franke had recently partnered with and sought counsel from “life coach”, Jodi Hildebrandt, becoming a co-host on Hildebrandt’s YouTube channel, “ConneXions”. On Aug. 30, 2023, Hildebrandt’s neighbors called the police as they reported a 12-year-old boy had shown up at their door asking for help. The child was Franke’s son, who had been restrained inside Hildebrandt’s house with duct tape and was emaciated from starvation. Franke confessed to administering the abuse alongside Hildebrandt, which included subjecting her children to lengthy outdoor physical labor which caused severe sunburns, restraining them with handcuffs and duct tape, restricting food intake and forcing her son’s head underwater to cut off his oxygen supply. 

  Yet, to those who had been following the family for a while, the abuse was not necessarily a surprise. Messages of concern frequently appeared on social media prior to the situation, in regards to other behaviors and actions Franke had exhibited that seemed questionable. For example, Franke took away her teenage son’s bed for 7 months and forced him to sleep on a beanbag after he harmlessly pranked his younger brother by pretending the family was going to Disney World. 

  However, some claim that Franke’s abusive tendencies only arose because of Hildebrandt’s influence. Franke’s lawyers stated in court that she was manipulated by Hildebrandt, and did not mean to harm her kids. Additionally, Hildebrandt’s niece spoke out against her aunt, expressing that she suffered at the hands of Hildebrandt while living in Hildebrandt’s house during her childhood. 

  Franke’s situation highlights the ill effects of the increasingly popular family YouTube channel, as forcing children to have intimate aspects of their lives filmed can be extraordinarily detrimental to both their mental health and the parents’. As Franke’s channel maintained a staggering 2.5 million subscribers, it can be inferred that at least one parent could have viewed the broadcasted abuse and adopted such behavior under the impression that it was normal, as both Franke and Hildebrandt offered advice and portrayed themselves as having a healthy family dynamic. 

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About the Contributor
Cici Copenhaver, Photo Editor, Assistant EIC
Cici Copenhaver is a senior in her second year of newspaper at WSH. She decided to take the class because she loves to write and edit stories, and also wants to assist with the photographic portion of the newspaper and website. Cici currently holds the position of photo editor. In her free time, she loves to read, write, ski, and bike. 

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