With a baby in her belly, Jamie Lynn Spears may have to kiss her acting career goodbye.
In the new issue of OK! magazine, the 16-year-old sister of Britney Spears announced that she's 12 weeks pregnant and that the father is her 18-year-old boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.
"It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected. I was in complete and total shock and so was he," Spears told OK! magazine.
Spears currently stars in "Zoey 101," a Nickelodeon series targeted at young girls whose parents probably don't want them idolizing a pregnant teen star. The fourth and final season of "Zoey 101" completed production in September, but it remains to be seen whether Nickelodeon will invite Spears back for other projects in light of her pregnancy.
"If they present it next year as no big deal, it could send the message to young girls that you can get pregnant and life will go on much as before, which is simply not true," said Robert Knight, director of the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute. "Given that her core audience is 10- to 14-year-old girls, she's probably not the best role model."
Knight added that he wouldn't be surprised if "Zoey 101's" advertisers pulled out of the show.
"The advertisers will probably wait to see how Nickelodeon handles this situation," he said. "But I would think some are rethinking their commitment."
But the controversy isn't likely to take away from "Zoey 101's" status as one of Nickelodeon's top-rated shows. Just as Britney's erratic behavior — flashing the paparazzi, shaving her head bald, skipping child custody hearings to club-hop — kept her in the headlines in 2007, her little sister's pregnancy could keep viewers hooked on the series.
"I don't think the young girls who watch the problem will tune out because of the pregnancy," Knight said. "Like anyone watching an unfolding drama, they might even tune in more."
Nickelodeon released a statement late Tuesday saying, "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."
In her OK! magazine interview, Spears voiced hope that the network will continue to reach out to her.
"I haven't spoken to [Nickelodeon] personally, but they have always been so great to me over the past years and have given me so many opportunities," she said.
Spears' pregnancy has apparently had consequences for her mother as well.
According to Publisher's Weekly, Lynne Spears was slated to release a book about "raising high-profile children while coming from a low-profile Louisiana community" in spring 2008. That book, which was to be put out by a company that publishes inspirational books and Bibles, has been delayed indefinitely, according to People.com.
Poster Child for Teen Pregnancy?
In 2006, the number of teen pregnancies rose for the first time in 14 years. Spears' pregnancy puts a public face on the growing trend.
Parents may want to use Spears' pregnancy to talk to their kids about premarital sex.
"Use this as a teachable moment," said "Good Morning America's" parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy. "Your kids will listen to you. Sit down with them and talk to them about this and about sex education."
"Even though Ms. Spears is a TV star earning a good income, her life will change. Teens need to understand that if they become pregnant they will sacrifice their dreams because they will need to care for their child," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center. "All too often parents find the subject matter uncomfortable. This front-page news story gives them the opportunity to open the door for a serious and important conversation."
For her part, Spears says she still wants to encourage her fans to forgo premarital sex.
"I definitely don't think it's something you should do. It's better to wait … but I can't be judgmental because it's a position I put myself in," she told OK!
Initially, Spears kept the news to herself when she learned of the pregnancy from an at-home test and subsequent doctor visit, she told the celebrity magazine, which hits stands in New York today and the rest of the country by Friday.
"As soon as I found out for sure from the doctor, I took two weeks to myself where I didn't tell anybody," she said. "Only one of my friends knew because I needed to work out what I would do for myself before I let anyone's opinion affect my decision. Then I told my parents and my friends. I was scared, but I had to do what was right for me."
Spears told her mother just before Thanksgiving. "She was very upset because it wasn't what she expected at all," Lynne told the magazine. "A week after, she had time to cope with it and became very supportive."
"I didn't believe it because Jamie Lynn's always been so conscientious. She's never late for her curfew. I was in shock. I mean, this is my 16-year-old baby," Lynne, already grandmother to Britney's young sons, told OK!
Spears, who's also a junior in high school, says she plans to raise the baby in her home state of Louisiana — "so it can have a normal family life."
Spears recently told The Associated Press that she didn't have a serious boyfriend, according to People.com. "I kind of just keep my options open," she said. "I have a bunch of friends that I always hang out with, a bunch of guy friends. … I'm going to try to graduate before I do anything else," she told the AP.