Experts want parents to be aware of 'orbiters,' men who target teens online

By Steve Garagiola - Reporter/Anchor, Kayla Clarke

DETROIT - There's a trend on social media that experts want parents to know about. It's called orbiting.

What may appear to be an innocent exchange online could escalate to become something much more dangerous. Experts are revealing the signs that an orbiter is targeting your teen.

Teens focused on increasing their social media presence are giving strangers more and more access to their profiles, and in some cases, they're even accepting money in exchange for sending pictures to men who are known as orbiters.

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Jenny Gutierrez, 19, and Bianca Morales, 19, are new to the YouTube scene, and they're trying to start careers as social media influencers. To reach influencer status they need to increase their video views by the millions. That means encouraging total strangers to follow them online.

Not all social media followers are the same and this alarming new trend called orbiting happens when when men following young women online asking for pictures in exchange for money or ask to meet the women in real life. Experts said men who orbit could pose a real danger.

A teen in New York, Bianca Devins, met a man online who became infatuated with her and eventually violently killed her when they met in real life.

Katey McPherson educates parents on digital dangers and how to manage devices with their children. Gutierrez and Morales said they've been contacted by men offering money in exchange for pictures. The men have even offered to pay their bills, they said.

Gutierrez said she has taken money from someone online.

"I told him, 'Send me the money first and then I'll send you the pictures' and he actually sent me the money, but he never received the pictures," Gutierrez said.

Police said there is always the potential for danger when interacting with strangers online. Experts said parents need to share real stories, such as the story of what happened to Devins, with their teens.

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