The Boy Scouts have released a new version of their famous 475-page Boy Scout Handbook that still includes tips on how to build a campfire but adds new material on how to surf safely when out in the World Wide Web. For the first time the handbook is now also available online and as an iPhone application.

“We are talking to boys where boys want to be talked to, which is on the Web,” Tico Perez, the national commissioner of the Scouts who oversaw production of the handbook, said in an interview with Associated Press.

As a former scout, I recall well striving to fulfill our famous motto of “be prepared.” Only today that now includes keeping an eye out for the closest Wi-Fi hotspot.

The online version includes links to videos that show Scouts exactly how to perform tasks and will help scoutmasters teach. The videos can be downloaded so kids can take them out in the field, Perez said. It will also have “Internet bugs” suggesting Web links about subjects highlighted the book.

“If there’s more first aid or more camping or more gear they’re interested in, we’ll be able to send them to sites that are monitored by us and that we’re comfortable with,” said Perez, who has been involved in Scouting since he was a boy.

Other steps to help the scouting movement connect with young Net Geners include podcasts, an online scouting community, a YouTube channel and a presence on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Evan Chaffee, a 21-year-old former Eagle Scout who was on the committee that designed the handbook, said the committee felt the technological advance is important for Scouts studying for rank and badge advancement.

The online material helps scouts pace their own learning. “If they don’t understand the topic or requirement, they can go onto their phone or to their laptop to do more research,” said Chaffee, now a student at the University of California at San Diego.

“I think a lot of times in the past, a lot of kids have nodded their heads and said, ‘OK, I guess i got it.’ But this way, they have the opportunity to actually research and learn more.”

Scouts are urged to alert adults to any Web sites, e-mails or anything else that makes them uncomfortable. They also are reminded not to give out their personal information, open e-mails from strangers or buy anything online without checking with a parent.

“As Scouts, we’re supposed to be on top of our games in anything as far as health and safety,” Chaffee said. “We need to learn how to use the Internet.”