Teen stars’ troubles tarnish role model status

In middle school I, like many others, idolized Britney Spears. In her early career she seemed like a virginal, talented, Southern girl who could be considered a good role model.

The role models of this tween generation are the darlings of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. However, these “role models,” unlike Spears, aren’t able to fake purity and the networks are letting them get away it.

Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney’s 16-year-old sister, has starred in Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 for three seasons. According to the New York Post, it is one of the most-watched television shows among kids aged 9-14. On the Dec. 18 cover of OK! Magazine, the teen admitted to being three months pregnant with her on-again, off-again 18-year-old boyfriend.

“I definitely don’t think it’s something you should do – it’s better to wait,” she told the magazine. “But I can’t be judgmental because it’s a position I put myself in.”

It’s good that Spears is taking responsibility for her actions. What is surprising is that Nickelodeon, which caters to children and teens, is backing up the young mother-to-be.

The network released the following statement: “We respect Jamie-Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well-being.”

The show will continue airing its fourth season, which has already been completed, in February.

The network is keeping Spears in the spotlight and in the position of being a role model. Forbes.com noted that Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, has typically ended their professional relationship with stars that they have found too controversial, like Tom Cruise.

This could have been a perfect chance for the channel to make a statement to the youth of America: even celebrities have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Younger girls look at the glamour,” said Dr. Vicki Panaccione to the New York Daily News. Panaccione is a child psychologist and founder of the Better Parenting Institute. “The more young kids see this, the more acceptable it seems. They think it’s no big deal and there really isn’t much of a sense of what it really means to bring a child into the world, or the dangers of unprotected sex.”

All teenagers make mistakes, but this is a teenager in the young public eye. While Spears apologized for her actions, she should have thought of her responsibility to her underage fans before she decided to destroy her image.