As you very well know, girls and boys are different: especially when it comes to what they do when they are with their friends and what they talk about in the company of their friends. Girls are stereotypically more dependent on their social network and put more importance on staying in touch with their friends than do their male counterparts. This general statement is of course not without its exceptions. There are some young boys who are incredibly social and some young girls who prefer to stay at home and read a good book rather than be out chatting about nothing at all with friends. Likewise each child is different in their own levels of maturity and ability to handle various responsibilities. Therefore it is impossible, if not unwise to state a blanket age for boys and girls when it comes to determining when they are ready for their own email account. The decision must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Experts suggest that the time when the pressure from peers to have an email account begins to be strong in the second or third grade. Although it is possible to be asked by your child for an email account sooner, this is a general age to think about as you are contemplating when your child will be ready for an email account. Most parents find that it is the child that instigates the conversation about obtaining an email account rather than the parent who brings up the topic. Children at this young and impressionable age have a lot of anxiety about fitting in, feeling liked and belonging to a group. Having an email account is a natural part of that same desire to feel mature, high-tech and connected like their other friends.
There are some key differences when it comes to boys and girls and the potential dangers that they may encounter while online. Spam can be sent to any one, no matter their age or gender, but the effects that these spam messages can have are certainly different. Specifically, spam with sexual undertones can be much more of a temptation to young boys than for young girls. Statistically, young boys show a greater interest in knowing more about the female body than girls of the same age care for knowing about boys. This is not to say that all young boys act on this curiosity or even that having a curious mind is bad, it is only important to know so that you can discuss with your son the moral standards that you expect for him to uphold and teach him what to do if he is ever confronted with material that you may find objectionable. Of course the same lessons ought to be taught to your daughters as well.
While the boys are curious, the girls are commonly overly trusting and friendly. While young boys are less likely to look for contact outside of their known circle of friends, girls enjoy expanding their circle, getting to know new people and connecting with both boys and girls that they do not know. You can imagine the types of danger that this presents even if this correspondence is only by email. Online predators use email accounts as a way to get to these young people and unfortunately too many of them end up getting emotionally or even physically abused.
All of this information is not meant to scare parents into never letting their child have an email account, rather it is best to be informed about the dangers that exist so that you can prepare your children with the knowledge of what they should do if they encounter such dangers online. Once your child reaches an age where they can be trusted to make such judgment calls, hopefully as a parent you will feel more comfortable allowing them to have their own email account.