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updated: 4/18/2013 11:39 PM

That's not Big Brother watching, it's a college coach

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There's a saying that the Internet is forever.

It's a shame more high school athletes haven't heard it.

As someone recently taken by Twitter, I'm finding the most enjoyable element of scanning tweets is reading what's going through the minds of prep athletes. Pregame preparation, postgame analysis, general team musings ... it provides interesting insight to the inner workings of a player.

Judging by the massive number of tweets from some athletes, it's clear they enjoy the forum as well.

Some, however, enjoy it a little too much.

Too often you'll read the most horrendous thoughts spewing across the Twitter feed from the strangest places. Sometimes it's the top prep athletes who write the worst things.

Profanity-laced tweets, racial tweets, sexual orientation tweets, general sexual tweets. Don't even get me started on the inappropriate videos prep athletes are putting out there.

It's enough to make a grown man cringe. Unfortunately for the athletes, some of those grown men are college recruiters.

There's no easier way for a recruiter to check in on a potential recruit than through social media. A quick look at a Twitter or Facebook account, and a college coach may gather all the information needed to realize there may be a character issue with the athlete.

The responsible use of social media is a must for any high school athlete hoping to play at the next level. And not to just fake your way through the process, it's a life lesson in how to act properly in a job-related atmosphere.

"Respect is a big thing in my house and I try to be as respectful as I can when I'm on Twitter because anyone can see, anyone can find out what you're putting on there," said Naperville Central senior Nicky Lopez, who will attend Creighton University on a baseball scholarship. "Colleges can see what you're saying, but you also want to be respectful of your opponents."

When his prep basketball career ended with a 26-point regional final loss to Benet, Lopez turned to social media in its best form. He tweeted: "Congrats to Benet! Much love to the team and student section."

Read through the tweets posted by Lopez and you'll find him congratulating fellow athletes on making their college choices or firing up his teammates for baseball season.

It's the best way for prep athletes to utilize social media. Again, it's not a ploy to fool college recruiters and others. It's a decision to be responsible with a powerful tool.

"Some stuff I see is just uncalled for," Lopez said. "I try to tell people not to say that stuff and just do the respectful thing."

While high school coaches do their best to monitor the social media activity of their athletes, some colleges aren't taking any chances. They're simply banning their athletes from using it.

Naperville North senior Colin Goebel earned all-state honors last fall as an offensive lineman. Among the many college scholarship offers he received, he accepted the University of Iowa's.

Goebel soon learned one of the rules established by Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz. On Jan. 4 Goebel tweeted: "Going to start tweeting a lot more ... won't be able to in about 4 months."

Iowa's football program prohibits its players from using Twitter. Probably the safe move considering the high profile of the program and the large number of athletes to track.

Goebel doesn't mind the restriction. In fact much of what he's seen on Twitter has turned him off the social media format.

"I've had Twitter for about four months now and it's already getting old," he said. "Some people tweet good stuff, but a lot of times it just looks bad. I look at it as a way to talk to people and joke around, but some people just don't think when they're on there."

It's simply too easy to make a mistake these days. Between Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, you name it, companies adept at delivering interesting technology to teenagers make it way too tempting to use it all.

That's fine in moderation, as long as you're smart about it.

Think before posting anything. That includes responding to others.

Don't engage too deeply with strangers. Learn a lesson from the fake relationship that ensnared Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

When you're ready to post something, put it to the ultimate test. In other words, would you be OK if your grandparents read it?

Remember, forever is a long time.

Follow Kevin on Twitter">@kevin_schmit

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