Recently schools have been asking us to talk to students about ‘chicken shop grooming’.
Whilst this is outside our usual remit of ‘online safety, it is a dangerous form of grooming and can sometimes be replicated online, so it is important for young people to know about it.
It is also important that parents, teachers and other adults are aware of what it is and how it works so that they can spot happening to the young people in their lives.
What is chicken shop grooming?
Chicken shop grooming is a form of child grooming that involves a groomer offering free food, typically chicken in a chicken shop, to a child. The child accepts the offer and continues to accept free food from the groomer over several days, during which time the groomer tries to form a relationship with the child.
After a few days, the groomer will inform the child that they are now in debt for all the food they have accepted. The groomer then offers a way for the child to repay the debt by delivering drugs for them. If the child agrees, the groomer will arrange for them to be robbed while they are delivering the drugs, which increases the value of the child's debt exponentially.
This cycle of delivering and robbing can continue, and the child's debt can quickly escalate to thousands of pounds. The child may feel that they have no choice but to continue dealing drugs for the groomer until the debt is paid off.
At this point in the grooming, dealers may visit children's homes demanding money. In extreme cases, children have gone missing after being groomed in chicken shops and found selling drugs or living in ‘cuckoo houses’ which are used by gangs to evade the police.
Gift-giving, which later turns into an unknown debt, is a form of grooming that can occur online, particularly on social media. A groomer can use any form of gift-giving to establish trust and create opportunities for exploitation.
It is crucial to educate children about chicken shop grooming to raise their awareness that they could be targeted. Moreover, it is essential to remind children of the timeless adage, "there's no such thing as a free lunch."
By being aware of the tactics used by groomers, children can better protect themselves from exploitation and stay safe - make sure to talk to them about chicken shop grooming.