When my children were young, we raised them without television. Really. And they were not permanently harmed, I don't believe. They read books, have active lives, and have become caring, wonderful adults (and yes, they both watch tv now).
The following article on Zen TV is masterful in debunking our societal expectations around television viewing. Living on Lopez, I'm surviving just fine without cable or tv shows. Netflix is sufficient for some entertainment after a full day of weaving, but not every night. Slower and simpler readily embraces a reality check on our relationship with tv.
If this quote from the article intrigues you, I strongly encourage you to read the full posting.
TV has become such a mechanical friend, such a substitute for social interaction, that one's solitude becomes acutely magnified, doubly experienced and doubly reinforced if one is deprived of its glowing, life-like presence (as if one wouldn't still be alone if it were on). If one is alone in one's room and turns on the TV, one actually doesn't feel alone anymore. It's as if companionship is experienced, as if communication is two-way. We have achieved a new level of isolation, solipsism and withdrawal. "It's just an object when it's turned off," hundreds of students have bemoaned. When it is turned off it more clearly reveals itself as an object, as an appliance -- rather than as a friend, a companion. It is shocking after all these years to discover this.