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No Kid is An Island: Privacy Scarcities and Digital Inequalities

Sun, August 12, 8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 113B


This article examines how digital inequalities give rise to privacy practices and resource acquisition strategies among disadvantaged youths. Based on in-depth interview data, the article probes the hidden costs of digital inequality among high school students in an agricultural belt of California. The analysis pays special attention to high-achieving students engaging in capital-enhancing activities such as schoolwork and college applications for which digital resources are necessary tools. The findings examine the emotional costs paid by disadvantaged strivers whose privacy is compromised in their struggles to obtain the digital resources necessary for college admissions, scholarship, and financial aid applications—almost all of which must be completed online. More specifically, the data show how youths facing a dearth of digital resources must manage their lack of physical privacy and digital footprints, as well as adaptively disclose private information to resource gatekeepers. When under-resourced youths seek digital resources necessary for capital-enhancing activities, they must weigh the benefits of access to resources against the emotional costs of potentially shaming disclosures. In this way, for these youths lacking resources but with high educational aspirations, privacy and resource acquisition are negotiated processes that require emotional labor.