Amidst the sadness of the unraveling life and inexplicable attention frenzy toward her sister Britney, "good girl" Jamie Lynn Spears, 16, announced that she is pregnant. While the star of Nickelodeon teen show "Zoey 101" must now contend with the real-life issues of teen pregnancy, the network is playing a wait-and-see game with the fate of the fictional "Zoey".
Nickelodeon has had a week to properly pull the plug on "Zoey", and their indecisiveness on the issue only serves to complicate matters for the parents of Spears' pre-teen and teen aged fans. Should the network air a new season of "Zoey" and keep Spears on for promotional purposes, a boycott of the shows sponsors and cancellation of cable packages carrying Nickelodeon would send a message that such a decision is morally unacceptable.
Most likely, a television star such as Ms. Spears has the financial means to support a child on her own, and we can only hope that she'll make some better parenting decisions than her sister. The larger group of "average" teenage girls that experience childhood pregnancy are much more susceptible to a life of single parenthood at or below the poverty line, with little support or opportunity to make a better living to pay for their children's needs. For Nickelodeon to allow "Zoey" to continue for the sake of advertising dollars would be to minimize the gravity of Ms. Spears' situation, and could lead its young audience to believe that "life goes on" without any added difficulty for teen girls that have children.
Many of our children are discussing this issue right now, and it will be difficult enough for parents to speak with them about teen pregnancy before they anticipated. If the show goes on, Nickelodeon will send a message that children can have children without risking the consequences of social stigmatization and years of financial hardship. It's time for Nickelodeon to recognize the sensitivities of the guardians of its target audience, and pull the remaining episodes and reruns of "Zoey" from its lineup.