Penelope Cruz's children are the ''most important'' thing in her life.

The 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' actress - who has Luna, six, and Leo, nine, with her husband Javier Bardem - feels ''very lucky'' that she can put her kids first and take them with her when she's working but thinks it's the ''pay-off'' for giving so much to her career when she was younger.

She said: ''When you become a mother, your priorities become very clear. ''The most important thing in my life is to raise my children.

''I'm lucky that I have a job where we can all be together.

''I feel that this is the pay-off for working very hard from when I was so young, but I don't take it for granted. I am very grateful.''

Penelope was a dancer when she was younger and admitted her loved ones used to tell her to ''slow down'' because she pushed herself so hard.

She said: ''I was very disciplined. I worked hard. My parents and friends had to tell me to slow down. I just wanted to keep learning and taking classes. I was never interested in going out.''

The 46-year-old star is worried about the impact of social media on teenagers and has called for more regulation around sites such as Instagram and Twitter.

She told Red magazine: ''I think it's difficult for teenagers now. It's like putting people out there in the jungle with no rules. It feels unregulated.

''It's the responsibility of the adults and government to create rules for the protection of kids and teenagers.''

Although Penelope feels society still values beauty over brains in women, she is ''optimistic'' that change is happening.

She said on the subject: ''I think it probably is, but I'm also very optimistic.

''Women are occupying a new and more defined place in society.

''There are more women in important positions in politics, industry, economics and in education at the highest levels.''