In homes with teenage girls across America yesterday morning, the big story was that teen TV star Jamie Lynn Spears is three months pregnant.
The 16-year-old sister of pop singer and celebrity train-wreck Britney Spears has her own Nickelodeon show,
, about a smart, resourceful girl attending a well-to-do boarding school on the California coast.
Dealing with a teenage pregnancy has not been among the story lines of
, though that is the plot of the new movie
which many are saying has Academy Award potential.
Jamie Lynn's delicate condition affirms a trend revealed in federal health statistics released earlier this month, which showed that after 14 years of decline, the teen birth rate in the United States increased by 3 percent last year.
Teenage pregnancy - and the challenges posed by it - is not a phenomenon found only among the poor. Well-off families experience it as well, as the case of Jamie Lynn illustrates so well. She, like the Juno character in the film, says she will carry her baby to term - a decision that will likely be used as fuel in the neverending abortion debate.
Certainly, the child star's pregnancy again raises huge questions about the influence that teenage role models have on their young audiences.
It was only a couple of months ago that parents learned that Vanessa Hudgens, star of the Disney hit movie
High School Musical
had posed for nude photos. Hudgens, 18, who apologized for her bad judgment, appears to have weathered that storm.
Nickelodeon, however, appears to have little alternative but to fire Jamie Lynn. No doubt her co-stars are furious that her indiscretion may cost them their jobs, too.
Just as furious are parents who had hoped that this Spears sister would be different. In fact, Jamie Lynn is just like thousands of other teenage girls who find themselves in trouble. More than a lecture at a time like this, they need understanding.