Daniel Hour, who works with new media at the University of Washington, suggests athletes shouldn’t go on Twitter within 24 hours after a game.

The popularity of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram among NCAA athletes has ripped down curtains that have long shielded high-profile athletic programs.

A photo or 140-character post suddenly provides instant access of the kind closed locker rooms and carefully regulated news conferences rarely permit. It also allows for instant feedback from the public—fans and critics alike.

See Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel flashing a wad of cash at an Oklahoma casino (legal). See Manziel responding to “haters” out of his some 275,000 Twitter followers on the casino trip and a variety of subjects. Read about Michigan guard Nik Stauskas’ discretion in not responding to Twitter critiques after he didn’t score in the Wolverines’ 56-53 loss last week to Ohio State. Examples are everywhere.

The issues caused by social media have college administrators racing to keep up, causing heartburn, but at the same time opening opportunities to increase exposure for athletes and their programs. Dealing with all of it, from compliance concerns to reputation-shaping consequences, headlined an educational seminar Jan. 16 during the ongoing NCAA Convention at the Gaylord Texan.

The idea is to use it “as a tool, not a toy,” said Kevin DeShazo, a speaker on the panel who is the founder of Fieldhouse Media, which he said helps athletes use social media in a positive manner and provides schools software to monitor athletes’ Twitter output. “It always comes back to education and being proactive, not shying from the issue and having consistent conversations on the topic.”

(Next page: How coaches and colleges are responding to the social media challenge)

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