Things Presidents' Children Can't Do When They're In The White House

It's no surprise that when families move into the White House there are a set of strict rules for them to follow. Being the son or daughter of the president of the United States is definitely not an easy role to take on, especially at a young age, and comes with an immense amount of pressure. It's safe to say it could be difficult at times growing up in a spotlight you didn't ask to be in and having the public watch every move you make. 

Although there are definitely some perks that come with being a president's kid, there are a set of rules and guidelines that must be followed at all times, whether they like it or not. This could include how they use social media, where they attend school, or how they are expected to act within the White House. Some of these rules could be bent if need be, but that comes at the expense of potentially receiving public backlash. Here's what presidents' children can't do and what rules they're required to follow. 

They can't have public social media accounts

It is very uncommon nowadays to find a teenager that does not have public social media accounts, especially on apps like TikTok and Instagram. Unfortunately, presidents' children are expected to steer clear of public platforms and are requested to keep them private instead. Since every move they make is watched by the public, it makes sense as to why they would want to keep what they share online under wraps. 

Malia and Sasha Obama are known for having private social media accounts. Michelle Obama confirmed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in February 2020 that she made the decision to not follow either of her daughters online, as reported by People. She claimed that they are both old enough to make their own choices, especially regarding how they present themselves online. However, she noted that she still has people follow and keep track of the girls' accounts. "It's better for them to be checked by somebody younger than me," the former first lady said.

During Donald Trump's presidency, former first lady Melania Trump confirmed that Barron Trump did not have any social media platforms and that he was more interested in sports instead.

They can't ride in cars on a public road

One of the many simple joys in life is cruising in the car with your friends, blasting loud music on the radio with the windows down. Unfortunately for presidents' children, specifically Malia and Sasha Obama, this was strictly not allowed. Aside from that one time the former president let Sasha's prom date drive her to the school dance with Secret Service riding "the boy's bumper" every step of the way there (via Vogue), that is.

And since the president is not allowed to drive on public roads, Sasha and Malia were never able to ride in the car with their mom or dad. The same rule applied to driving with their friends, as well. Regarding her family's life during her husband's presidency, Michelle Obama noted in her book "Becoming," "Normally, for security reasons, Malia and Sasha weren't allowed to ride in anyone else's car" (via the Chicago Sun-Times).

They can't accept overly expensive gifts

Although it may seem like the first family gets to live a lifestyle of never-ending luxury, that is not necessarily the case. Presidents and their families have been given extravagant gifts from foreign dignitaries over the years, but unfortunately, they can only accept them if they are valued within a certain price range.  

In January 2014, gifts given to the president, first lady, or their children cannot be valued any more than $375. According to The Atlantic, any gift that the first family receives is sent to the National Archives after it is given and is considered government property. Basically, the better the gift and the more expensive it is, the less likely the family can actually keep it. However, if the president wants to keep a gift that is valued above the $375 limit, they are expected to pay for it themselves at face value. 

NBC News reported that in February 2016, the Obama family was given an exclusive parking pass for them to watch any sporting event they wanted at the United Center. This also included the games of the former president's hometown team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately, this was one of those situations where they were unable to keep the gift. 

They can't eat indulgent meals every day

A common misconception about living in the White House is that the first family is served an endless amount of super high-quality food on a daily basis. Considering that they have some of the most talented chefs catering to their every need (via HuffPost), it's hard to believe that they don't eat lavishly every once in a while. Although it is possible to eat exquisite foods for every meal of the day, the president and first lady are expected to pay the price of those fancy dining experiences. Without their parents' permission, the president's children won't be dining on the finest steaks or lobsters. 

While appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2018, former first lady Michelle Obama confirmed that, although rent and staff costs are free with a White House residence, the family has to pay for their own food bills at the end of the day. "They let you get whatever you want. Like if you say you want some exotic fruit, 'Yes ma'am, we'll get that right away,' and then you get the bill for a peach and it's like, that was a $500 peach!" she told Kimmel.

They can't go anywhere without Secret Service

Just like the president of the United States, first ladies and presidents' kids must have Secret Service accompany them whenever they leave the White House so their safety and security is ensured at all times. According to CBS News, President Barack Obama signed a law that every former U.S. president and their spouse can accept a lifetime of Secret Service protection, though they can decline it if they wish. This overrode the 1994 law limiting protection to future former presidents and families to only 10 years once their term ended. Presidents' children are eligible to receive this protection as well until they are 16 years old. 

In January 2021, ABC News reported that former President Donald Trump decided to grant protection for an additional six months after his term ended to his four adult children, their spouses, and select White House staff members. Although it isn't entirely strange for children to receive this extended protection, it's typically given to children who are minors or young adults who lived in the White House. 

They don't usually go to public schools

It is not so much that the first children are completely forbidden from attending public school, but are rather expected to learn at a private school instead. According to The Atlantic, it quickly became a norm for a U.S. president to send his children to a private school. During former president Donald Trump's term, his son Barron attended St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Maryland, and during their father's terms, Sasha and Malia Obama were taught at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., each costing $40,000 a year (via Insider). Private schools are preferred to ensure presidents' kids' safety and security and to eliminate public exposure in a larger setting.

Although first children have mainly attended private schools over the years, President Jimmy Carter sent his 9-year-old daughter Amy Carter to a D.C. public school in 1977. This was because he judged "exclusive private schools that allow the children of the political and economic elite to avoid public schools that are considered dangerous or inferior," even though he had the resources to send his daughter elsewhere.

They are not allowed to open any windows at the White House

One of the biggest restrictions that come with living in the White House is that the windows in every room (and even in cars) must remain shut at all times. After all, the president's family must be protected at all times. In a conversation with Oprah Winfrey at the United State of Women Summit, former first lady Michelle Obama recalled the time her daughter Sasha opened her bedroom window in the White House and how "there were calls." "'Shut the window!' It never opened again," she said. This may seem like an easy rule to follow when you first think about it, but imagine being a kid and not being able to open a window on a nice spring day for fresh air!

This was actually one of the things Michelle Obama was excited about the most when preparing to move out of the White House after former president Barack Obama's term ended. While on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," she was asked what she was looking forward to doing most after moving out. She jokingly responded, "I want to do little things like, you know, open a window."