Information on teens' behavior, as we saw from the coverage of Morgan Stanley’s efforts to map the zeitgeist earlier this year via the musings of a 15-year-old intern, is in great demand.  It’s not only useful to baffled parents, it’s also crucial for content providers, advertisers and marketers seeking to engage with teen audiences.

Based on a European wide survey of nearly 1,400 internet users aged 12-17 across seven major territories (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and Sweden), we captured a number of key consumer trends that help us identify the challenges and opportunities ahead, including the following:

TV is still the main media channel for teens. Reports of TV’s death have been greatly exaggerated. European teens still spend more time watching TV (10.3 hours per week on average) than they do using the internet for personal purposes (9.1 hours). But gaming – 11.7 hours per week if you combine time spent playing games on a PC and on a console – now consumes even more time than TV for European teens.

Social interaction online is an integral part of media consumption. European teens have embraced social media heartily – not only Facebook, which 44% visit at least weekly, but blogs, which 30% read at least weekly. And teens are twice as likely to comment on someone else’s blog as users aged 18+. For teens, the separation between ‘content’ and ‘social media’ is an increasingly irrelevant one – the latter is integrated into the former as part of a wider content experience online.

But social interaction offline is vital to teens too. Critics who argue that social media is turning a generation of teens into recluses, and stopping them from real-world interaction with their peers, are wrong. Teens are significantly more likely to consumer media – whether online or on TV – alongside their friends than are older users.

Multitasking is mainstream. Content providers need to understand that for most teen users, content is rarely consumed in isolation on one platform. The vast majority of internet using European teens do something else while online –50% listen to music on the PC, while 45% watch TV while online, for example.

Teen multitaskers like to talk about what they are watching on TV. 47% of  multi-tasking teens talk with friends online about what they are watching on TV, compared with just 28% of older multitaskers. This is a clear opportunity for content providers and marketers to engage in real-time online activity around TV content. (ITV1’s idea of a live Twitter feed around its Saturday night drama Primeval was a step in the right direction, but with two major flaws: most teens don’t use Twitter, and Primeval got decommissioned)

There’s more detail on all of these trends in my new report, How Teens Consume Media, including data on the best time of day to engage a teen audience, and some notable country-level differences within Europe.

So why is it so important to understand the behaviour of this group of young and often impoverished users in particular? Because in a post-media-meltdown universe, the attitudes and habits of these digital natives, largely unencumbered with legacy media habits from a pre-Internet era, give us a great insight into how the future media landscape will evolve. For content providers, marketers and advertisers, that’s must-have information.