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GUEST EDITORIAL

Celebrity sister sets a poor example

Teenage girls should not be having children. Even rich teenage girls with famous sisters who have their own television show and lots of money should avoid getting pregnant because almost nothing good can come of it.

By making the decision to get pregnant at 16, Jamie Lynn Spears has doomed thousands of teenage girls and their children to lives of poverty and despair. Though Jamie Lynn, the sister of troubled pop star Britney Spears, has the financial resources to support a child she lacks the maturity to properly raise a kid as would most teenagers no matter how successful they are elsewhere.

Certainly some incredibly resourceful non-famous teenage moms manage to rise above their circumstances to carve out a decent life for themselves and their child. Most of the estimated 750,000 girls who have babies between the ages of 15-19, however, face a lifetime of bad jobs, financial struggles and an inability to give their kid the tools required to get ahead.

Non-famous 16-year-olds who elect to follow in Jamie Lynn's footsteps will find that their choice does not get them a million dollar payday to be on a magazine cover. Nobody will be offering them six figures for the first picture of their baby and instead of being showered with attention they will face a difficult road to avoid abject poverty.

Raising a child has been difficult for my wife and me and we waited until we were 30, financially stable and well set-up in our professions before attempting it. If two people with decent resources and established careers find parenting challenging, then what hope does a teenager who hasn't even finished high school have?

A star to younger teenagers because of her role on Nickelodeon's "Zoey 101," Jamie Lynn must understand that many girls see her a role model. Not only is she pretty, but she's on TV, gets paid well and lives what most would consider a glamorous lifestyle. If she endorsed a perfume or a pair of shoes, a certain percentage of her audience would buy it to be like her and the same will be true of her pregnancy.

Anyone who doubts that celebrities influence teenagers simply has to look at the kids in any high school and count how many girls wear those ridiculous giant sunglasses. It's natural for teens to want to emulate famous people, but the results can be disastrous when part of the glamour of fame comes from being arrested, abusing various substances and having unplanned pregnancies.

Stars like the Spears sisters, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan hold huge influence over regular teens; a responsibility none of them seem to take seriously. It's not okay to ask an audience to buy your products, watch your movies and follow your lead when it comes to purchasing things, but not consider it your responsibility to set a reasonably good example in other areas of life.

As we've learned from watching kids emulate athletes, famous people often don't make good role models, but their fame makes them role models anyway. Kids are going to follow Jamie Lynn Spears down this path. That's a worse tragedy than one foolish famous girl who has a baby because it gets her on magazine covers and makes her more famous.

Daniel B. Kline's work appears in more than 100 papers weekly. His new book, a collection of columns, "Easy Answers to Every Problem," can be ordered at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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