Email isn't just for keeping in touch with friends and family. If you intend to shop, look for a job, or register for anything online, you need an email account. There are 3 main providers of free email: Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail. To create accounts, go to www.gmail.com, www.yahoo.com or www.hotmail.com to get started.
It takes no more than 10 minutes to sign up. Usually the hardest part of the process is finding a unique User ID. Don't forget to check to make sure the cute name you have chosen for yourself is available. If it isn't, you need to tweak it and try again. Sometimes you are offered suggestions to replace your original choice and if you are lucky you will like one of them.
The User ID is the beginning of your final email address and will be around for a long time, so choose wisely. Sexygrandpa@yahoo.com may sound cute for friends and family, but how are you going to feel about when you are doing business with strangers online?
Choosing a strong password is also important. Birth dates, social security numbers, pet's names, and kid's names are the most frequently used and the most easily guessed. Your best bet is to make up a phrase, use the first letter of each word, throw in a capital letter or two and add a number or symbol for good measure. For example, your phrase may be "I love computer classes" which translates into Ilcc. But most email accounts require passwords at least 6 characters in length, so let's add a number and a symbol. Ilcc3& is short enough to type easily, but complex enough to be harder to crack. It has all the elements of a good password: a capital, lower case letters, a number and a symbol. Watch out though. Some accounts require 8 or more characters. Read the requirements carefully to come up with something suitable.
People often balk when it comes to their birthdays. Why do email companies need to know how old you are anyway? Well, they give various reasons, but usually it's related to marketing, so if you don't want to give your real age, don't. Giving a birth date of 2010 is no good, as even a computer realizes that you would be too young to type much less carry on email correspondence.
The crazy letters/numbers at the end of the sign-up process are meant to keep someone from using an automated system to sign up for multiple accounts. It lets the computer know you are a real person requesting an account. If you don't get it on the first try, just try again. Or click on the link for an audio version if you have trouble seeing the screen.
Once you have your email account, start emailing your friends and family so you can build up a contact list. Tell your friends to look out for your email as it may be caught in the spam filter, but once it goes through, you will be on their contact list too and your emails should go through just fine.