The Sunday Telegraph

By Gemma Jones

Four more years in a gilded cage lie ahead for US President Barack Obama's daughters.

Malia, 14, and 11-year-old Sasha Obama face their most formative teenage years in the White House, joining just a small crop of Americans who have shared the privilege.

Gerald Ford's daughter Susan held her high school prom in the East Room, while Lyndon Baines Johnson's daughters spent their last night "in office" sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Caroline Kennedy attended an in-house kindergarten as her parents, JFK and Jackie Kennedy, tried to preserve her privacy.

The Obama girls have similarly protective parents and have maintained family routines, such as 6.30pm dinner for which their father walks the few steps home from the Oval Office.

"We want to be at the dinner table with our kids and I want to be helping them with their homework," the President said in an interview.

Malia, who has been prevented from having a Facebook page for security reasons, does her own washing and the girls make their beds.

The Obamas know the stakes for their daughters. One minor misstep could become the talk of America.

"I think they are ... the first kids in the White House growing up where everybody's got a cellphone and everybody's watching," Michelle Obama said in a recent interview.

"You may be having a moment, but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever."

President George W Bush's daughter Jenna learned the hard way when as a university student she was given underage drinking citations.

She went on to write a successful children's book with her mother Laura Bush.

"There is stuff you might just get away with as a regular person, like just getting drunk and people won't make a fuss about it" Associate Professor Brendon O'Connor from Sydney University's US Studies Centre said yesterday.

"On the one hand you have got these enormous opportunities, people would always want to come over, there is always potential for some big event.

"If you've got to have the right personality and you can make the most of it, fantastic but if you're more introverted and want to be left alone and don't want people pretending to be your friend all the time I am sure it is really hard."

The Obama girls attend Washington's Sidwell Friends School where they are friends with the grandchildren of Vice President Joe Biden.

As a First Daughter, Chelsea Clinton attended the school, as did the son of Al Gore when he was Vice President.

Ms Clinton has not ruled out one day launching her own political career.

This article was originally published by The Sunday Telegraph